Counting cash, not calories

Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.

 

Kathie Byers '14

Marcus Larson/News-Register
LINCS executive director Kathie Byers demonstrates cutting butter for cookie dough to Katherine Elmore, 16, of Grand Ronde.

By Karl Klooster
Of the News-Register

It’s 8 a.m. Monday. Time for Kathie Byers to pull onto Highway 18 for the drive from Sheridan to Bellevue.

Her destination is a recently opened restaurant named Barrel 18, which sits just across the road from the long-established Lawrence Gallery.

The restaurant, which replaces Cafe Uncorked, is a sibling to Barrel 47 in Carlton.

Get it? Highway 18, Highway 47.

Who knows? Before long, there could be a Barrel 99W.

Barrel 18’s owner, Andy Rabung, has done what could be considered a big favor for Byers. He’s given her the run of his restaurant, so to speak, for most of each Monday.

The fact the business isn’t open that day is incidental. It demonstrates the confidence he has in this amiable woman.

To understand why Rabung places such trust in her, we need to revisit the invaluable human resource she epitomizes — volunteering.

A lot of people gain a sense of satisfaction from giving their time to assist a worthy cause, whether it be a community service project or just a local family in need. The volunteering offers its own rewards.

But only a few people give of their time, talent and treasure to the point where it becomes almost a second full-time job. That takes exceptional commitment and dedication. It’s something others may aspire to, but never actually do.

Byers is one of those admirable individuals who have made volunteering a priority. She has become the driving force behind a local 501(c)(3) organization that makes a tangible difference to the youngsters it serves. It might not even exist without her leadership, which dates back to 1996.

The group goes by the acronym LINCS, which originally stood for Local Individuals Committed to Sheridan. With its outreach now extending well beyond the West Valley town, LINCS has since been updated to stand for Leading, Inspiring, Nurturing, Connecting, Succeeding.

Byers boils it down to basics by describing LINCS as “a nonprofit organization for positive youth development.” One of the ways it carries out that mission is through “Nite Court,” a weekly sports activity session held each Saturday evening in the Faulconer-Chapman Elementary School gym.

The YMCA started Nite Court in 1999, but pulled out of Sheridan when adequate funding failed to materialize. So LINCS stepped in.

“We decided to take over running the program because we could see that the youth really enjoyed it and it was one of very few positive activities available for the youth,” she said. “We continue to have an average of 50 kids every Saturday night. They play basketball, volleyball and socialize.

In 2010, a number of the teens who regularly participated in Nite Court were enthused about the idea of taking a snowboarding trip to Mount Hood. But there was no money to cover the costs.

At the time, Byers, a mother of three teenagers returning to school later in life, was just beginning her freshman year at Linfield, and was only able to offer logistical help. If they really wanted to go, the kids would have to raise the money themselves.

“They held weekend fundraising events for three months and raised over $5,000,” Byers said. “Mount Hood Skibowl was so impressed with their enthusiasm, they cut the cost of lift tickets and equipment rental fees 50 percent. We ended up going on six snowboarding trips that winter.”

Operating funds are, understandably, an ongoing concern for most small nonprofits. And LINCS is no exception.

But creative thinking on Byers part has made the difference in filling that need.

While still attending college fulltime, she came up with the idea of selling monster cookies. They would be made by a youth crew under her supervision and sold at various venues around the valley.

That’s why Byers and her group of up to 20 fledgling bakers take over the Barrel 18 kitchen each Monday and Tuesday morning. They set out to make, bake, wrap and label 25-dozen monster cookies bearing the Kathie’s Kookies brand.

To top it off, Rabung has allowed her to install a large convection oven purchased by LINCS.

The oven can accommodate five trays at a time, each bearing a dozen cookies. That enables the crew to bake their cookies to perfection, thanks to continually circulating air heated to precisely 325 degrees.

With the assistance of faithful adult friends, including Jeannie Newell, Patti Swift and Amber Diebel, Byers makes certain the baking is carried out in a smooth-flowing and strictly professional manner.

As the job description explains, “Each baker will receive training in food safety and bakery practices. Each baker will also receive (his or her) Oregon Food Handler’s permit from Oregon Public Health. It’s a voluntary position, but you will receive credit for community service as well as skills to be included on your college/job applications. LINCS will pay for the cost of the food handler’s permit.”

Byers, however, is quick to note she tries to make it a fun experience as well, playing music and encouraging conversational interaction among the kids and adults.

The cookie-baking business is now in its fourth year, and they’ve got it down to a science.

Byers constantly shops for the best buys at WinCo, Costco and Cash & Carry for such basic ingredients as flour, sugar and butter. Each week, they use 150 pounds, 50 pounds and 32 pounds, respectively, so the pennies add up.

Then there are the M&Ms and Snickers. These wildly popular candies top off the recipes for two of the four types of monster cookies they bake.

“WinCo is the best bulk source for the M&Ms,” Byers noted. “And Costco usually has the lowest Snickers prices. Then I’ve got to get the baking soda, shortening, salt and vanilla extract.”

Included in the Kathie’s Kookies selection are the M&Ms, Chocolate Chip, Maple Bacon, Snicker Doodle and Mac Attack versions. A quarter pound of lip-smacking luxuriousness runs $2.

Information on the wrappers used to include a list of exercises to burn off the calories from one cookie. But such suggestions as “45 minutes of swimming” may have been counterproductive in trying to motivate impulse buyers.

Kathie’s Kookies are regularly sold at Sheridan High, Linfield College, Hampton Lumber and the Walmart parking lot, and Byers is always on the lookout for new venues. Her goal is to double production, from 300 to 600 cookies per week, and ultimately use this success story as a springboard for additional support.

Long term, she hopes to be able to expand LINCS and generate enough funding to work fulltime as its executive director. To get more information, offer assistance or simply wrap your tastebuds around an inKredible Kookie, call her at 503-560-1090.

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — not resisting for one millisecond the urge to gobble down one or more of Kathie’s Kalorie-laden “monster” Kookies.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at kklooster@newsregister.com or phone at 503-687-1227.