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Airport Will Give Away Two Millionth Cookie This Year

Courtesy/Katie Robinson
A volunteer hands out a cookie at the Fort Wayne International Airport.

For some visitors, their first impression of Fort Wayne is sweet.

For more than fifteen years, volunteers have been handing out cookies to travelers arriving to the airport, and this year they’ll hand out their two millionth cookie.

Not everyone takes a cookie, but 5-year-old Abigail and 3-year-old Sophie Sipes were happy to take the treat. The cookies rustle in the girls’ hands as they wait next to their grandparents, who had just flown in from Massachusetts.

"We're a small airport; we have that Midwestern charm."

People leaving the Fort Wayne airport are handed a cookie from Ellison Bakery, located across the street. Airport marketing specialist Katie Robinson says the smell of the bakery makes for a pleasant arrival in northeast Indiana.

“There are a lot of times, even when I leave work at night, or when I’m leaving for lunch, if you walk out when they’re baking you get a big whiff of cookies when you walk out the door, which is really great because a lot of airports it’s jet fuel or things like that, but we have a nice cookie smell when you get here,” Robinson said.

According to Robinson, the airport started handing out cookies in 2000, a year after the airport started the Hospitality Host program to welcome and assist visitors.

“They were really looking for a way to kind of add a hometown feel to the airport,” she said. “We’re a small airport; we have that Midwestern charm, the Hoosier hospitality, so we were looking for a way to kind of bring that into the airport.”

The president of Ellison Bakery, Todd Wallin, says the partnership is less about money and more about helping the community. He says they sell the cookies to the airport at a minimal cost.

“This is just a fun part of our business, and to see the people, and their first taste of Fort Wayne when they come to town,” Wallin said.

Credit Courtesy/Katie Robinson

The airport offers two cookies: sugar and oatmeal. From 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., volunteers hand out the cookies. Robinson says frequent flyers miss the volunteers when they aren’t on duty.

“If the hospitality host isn’t there waiting with the cookie, you’ll get people a lot of times walking through, ‘Where’s the cookie at? Where’s the cookie lady?’” Robinson said.

Norma Wilkinson has been volunteering at the airport since the program started. She says it’s fun to socialize with the other volunteers. Many of them have retired from their full-time jobs and volunteer at the airport until they can no longer work.

“You know a lot of them are older,” Wilkinson said. “Of course, I shouldn’t say anything, I’m 88.”

Her friend Rosie Ankenbruck is 81 years old and has also been volunteering at the airport from the start of the program.

“I enjoy meeting the people. Everybody out here at the airport is also very friendly,” Ankenbruck said. “I enjoy talking with them. It’s just fun to see people we haven’t seen in a long time when they come off the planes.”

Since the program started, Hospitality Hosts have volunteered more than 85,000 hours of service, according to the airport’s website. And this summer, when the airport hands out its two millionth cookie, Ankenbruck and Wilkinson will be there to serve some Hoosier hospitality to Fort Wayne visitors.

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