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By Karen Farkas
Religion News Service

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — In 22 seasons of triumph, despair and frustration in the Cleveland Indians’ quest for a World Series title, there has been one constant.
Chocolate chip cookies.
The team’s most dedicated and prayerful fans, the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, have faithfully delivered boxes of the delectable treats whenever they felt the Tribe needed a boost.
Cookies accompanied the team to Boston for the first games of the American League Championship Series and were delivered to Jacobs Field for the home stand.
While the cookies are a staple at the clubhouse, they have spawned a burgeoning business — Nun Better cookies, which is on the verge of going global, said Sister Mary Assumpta, director of mission development at the Jennings Center for Older Adults.
“Our dream is to build the business to where we can build the endowment fund so we can take care of the poor,” Sister Mary said. Most residents of the retirement community are on Medicaid, which doesn’t provide enough reimbursement to fund quality care.
Sister Mary, a diehard fan, is thrilled the business evolved from supporting the Tribe.
In 1985, the sisters regularly attended games, bringing residents to create a pocket of support in cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
They held homemade signs for favorite players.
One day, at the request of a resident, they sought a meeting with player Mel Hall. A security guard gave Hall a note, and he obliged and visited for about 10 minutes, she said.
Hall told them he noticed the sisters and their signs. He subsequently invited them to the clubhouse to meet their favorite players. They made homemade chocolate baseball players for each, with their number on the cap.
The following spring they wanted to deliver a gift for the home opener but decided making chocolate was too time-consuming.
“So I suggested chocolate chip cookies,” Sister Mary said.
A tradition was born.
While they have watched favorite players come and go, their allegiance runs deep. During the 1991 season, which ended with 105 losses, cookies arrived at the beginning of each home stand, Sister Mary said.
The sisters gained national attention later in the 1990s when the team advanced to the playoffs and World Series. Sister Mary also had a cameo in the 1989 movie “Major League,” about the Cleveland Indians.
Currently, Casey Blake is Sister Mary’s favorite player and she includes a note for him with a box of cookies.
A friend told her he saw her picture on Blake’s locker when he was doing a television interview.
“I’m Casey’s pinup girl,” she said with a laugh.
In 2002, after numerous requests, the sisters decided to use family recipes and bake and sell a variety of cookies at Jennings. They sold 200 pounds during the holidays.
“We thought that was cool,” Sister Mary said.
Sales exploded last winter, when the cookies were featured in a catalog and online at monasterygreetings.com, a Cleveland company that sells merchandise and food made at religious communities.
Owner Will Keller had met a Jennings Home executive at a college alumni meeting and the talk turned to cookies.
“Shipping had always been a problem and we were ready to expand,” Sister Mary said.
Sisters and Jennings Home residents bake several days a week. Chocolate chip remains the top seller by far, she said.
Keller ships the cookies worldwide, including to college students and soldiers in Iraq. He also sells Nun Better aprons, mugs and a nun cookie jar. Nun Better is a registered trademark, a gift from a patent attorney who is the son-in-law of a resident at Jennings, Sister Mary said.
More than 2,400 pounds of Nun Better cookies were sold last year for a profit of $11,000. Close friend and “Major League” producer Chris Chesser said he plans to form a company with a friend to produce and distribute the cookies and pay the sisters a licensing fee.
“It’s such a great brand and it’s for such a great cause,” Chesser said.
Said Sister Mary, “It’s been a long time coming, but these things don’t happen without something bigger than us.”

Karen Farkas is a reporter for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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