The Planned Parenthood of Illinois bake sale was supposed to start selling cookies Monday. But by late last week, the bake sale had already made more than $37,000 and sold out of cookie boxes, days before the sale was officially supposed to start.
“Being in the restaurant business, we don’t have a lot of time,” says Justin Behlke, a chef at Elizabeth and Kitsune and the bake sale’s organizer. “But when we pool our resources we can use our work to benefit our community.”
Behlke initially contacted friends and colleagues in the local restaurant industry, asking them if they’d be interested in participating in a bake sale like the ones that have proven successful in Portland and Madison, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood of Illinois.
Bad Hunter, Bang Bang Pie Shop, Cellar Door Provisions, Elizabeth, Elske, Floriole, Giant, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Loba Pastry, Local Foods, Lula, Parachute, Pleasant House Bread, and Spinning J will all be donating one cookie to each of the 500 boxes.
Amanda Shepard, a pastry chef at Lula Cafe, says that when Behlke came calling there was no question as to whether Lula would participate.
“I don’t think it was a conversation, really,” Shepard says. “We just immediately said yes. There was like no thought to it.”
Christine Cikowski, a managing partner and head chef at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, says that it took a “three-second” conversation with her partner Josh Kulp to decide if the restaurant would participate.
“Josh and I have been advocates for a variety of different causes and movements over the years at Honey Butter, particularly when it comes to community,” Cikowski says. Honey Butter was the first Chicago restaurant to sign up to be a “sanctuary restaurant” in early January, committing to be a safe haven for immigrants and refugees.
Lula Cafe will be donating a chocolate meringue cookie with walnuts and candied mandarin orange. Honey Butter will be donating 500 snickerdoodles, which joined the menu in early January.
The plan was to sell cookie boxes over the course of the next month, starting Monday, and have cookie boxes available for pickup the weekend of March 11. But after the Chicago Tribune published a short article about the bake sale on February 6, the bake sale’s website started getting traffic. Three days after the Tribune article ran, all 500 boxes had sold.
The support has been “overwhelming,” says Julie Lynn, Planned Parenthood of Illinois manager of external affairs. “It’s really encouraging to see the support of so many different types of people.” The money collected will go into the group’s general operating fund, Lynn says.
Behlke says that he hopes that the future of the restaurant industry looks more like what he saw in the lead-up to the bake sale.
“I hope that it gets to be less about the trends,” he says, “and more about working together to better our communities.” Because of the bake sale’s success, Behlke says, there are already talks about other events to benefit other organizations representing minority groups in Illinois.
“We’re thinking about what is easy for restaurants to make and pack up, and dumplings came to mind.” Now the plan is to get another benefit sale up and running to benefit an organization “like the ACLU.”
Cikowski says that Honey Butter received an e-mail from a future customer who pledged to eat at the restaurant because of its participation in the bake sale. But not every message has been as supportive.
“You are SCUMBAGS!!” read one e-mail to Behlke.
That e-mail was “awesome,” Behlke says, because it affirmed the success of the initiative. In an Instagram post he wrote that he was glad he could make the sender mad, adding the hashtag #LoveTrumpsHate.
The bake-sale website, though not offering any more cookies, remains live and is accepting donations to Planned Parenthood through Friday, February 17.