Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Food for Thought

Twins start baking club to raise money for Alzheimer’s

The familiar sound of clanging keys ring in the empty corridor as twins Rachel and Jennifer enter their grandmother’s apartment. Their minds keep imagining her old house.  

They saw memories of wearing matching red dresses, running into the kitchen to smell what their grandmother had cooked. The aroma of fresh Peruvian food flooding their noses, leaving a lasting imprint. The whole family laughed as stories were exchanged around the dinner table. 

Subconsciously, the girls’ senses seek out that familiarity during this visit. But lately the meetings aren’t like they used to be. Their grandmother’s homemade meals live solely in their memories. But the anecdotes she shares stay in the present, playing on a loop. 

Their dad paces throughout the apartment, signs of stress clearly painted on his face. When they ask, their dad confirms what they already pieced together. 

Their grandmother has Alzheimer’s. 

***

Seniors Rachel and Jennifer Garay were raised in Texas by a Peruvian family. Their grandmother, born and raised in Peru, moved to America too.

Jennifer and Rachel Garay sell cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods to support the Alzheimer’s Association. (Photo submitted by Rachel Garay)

Their grandmother used to live in a house, but now she lives alone in her apartment, still able to take care of herself. Almost every other weekend, the twins visit her to bring her groceries, take her out and keep her company.

“She’s very sweet. She’s quiet. She doesn’t speak English,” Rachel said. “It’s hard for her to connect with other seniors at the apartment place and stuff because of that language barrier.” 

As the twins grew up, their grandmother helped them stay in touch with their Peruvian roots. Early memories for Rachel and Jennifer were filled with their grandmother cooking and frying Aji de Gallina, a personal favorite. She would bathe chicken in a creamy chili sauce to make a stew with flavors that excited the girls’ taste buds. 

“I remember coming into the kitchen, smelling different things, and just being so excited to try Peruvian recipes,” Jennifer said.

But the grandmother they see before them now isn’t quite the same. The heartwarming stories she shared were now on a repeat cycle. She needed to be constantly reminded of her medication.

“Recalling how she was a couple years ago to how she is now is just a bit jarring,” Jennifer said. 

Every time they go to visit, Rachel and Jennifer see the toll this takes on her. They picture how she used to be. At first the twins felt helpless about the state she was in, wanting to do more for her.

“Whenever I’m in the apartment, she’ll get really emotional and she’ll start crying,” Rachel said. “It’s very hard to see her go through that kind of thing.” 

Their little brother would accompany them on a few of their visits. Because he doesn’t fully understand his grandmother’s situation, their relationship hasn’t changed much. The energy between them has never been tinged with sadness.

“I guess her Alzheimer’s isn’t very visible to him,” Jennifer said. “It’s not the main thing between them. They have a very nice relationship.”

Still, seeing her in this state was something Rachel and Jennifer couldn’t get over. When going home after their visits, they couldn’t leave their feelings behind in that apartment. It followed them.

“After one of my visits with my grandmother, I was like, ‘I really just want to contribute to a cure, but obviously, I’m not a doctor,” Rachel said. “I thought the best way to contribute towards a cure for Alzheimer’s and stuff is to help support them through funds.”

They felt closest to her whenever they baked, like when she would cook her special meals for the whole family.  

To them, this was the perfect way to honor and support her. 

Rachel started out by reaching out to the Alzheimer’s Association and letting them know that she was planning to raise money for them. They wanted to support one of the biggest helpers for Alzheimer’s.

The sisters took matters to the school and formed a club called “Food for Thought.” They were passionate about this cause, and their family had their backs. 

“It’s mainly our parents that help us,” Jennifer said. “Get the ingredients that we need, help out with the money.”

Because they were so passionate, the twins thought they could find their same motivation in others. But they quickly realized that this would be the hard part. 

“It was kind of hard to get people motivated for our cause,” Rachel said. “We found a few people, but the majority…didn’t really go to meetings and stuff.”

They didn’t let this hold them back, though. Rachel and Jennifer coordinated with the other members of the club, and together they decided who would be in charge of baking what. Everyone would bake the treats at their home to sell. 

Their sales started off in a little street corner. Decorative posters were taped to rows of tables. Delicately placed platters with purple ribbons tied to each treat — the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement. The cool spring breezes on their faces felt

Photo submitted by Rachel Garay

almost as good as the impact they were making. 

However, as good as they felt, some of the club members couldn’t help but be a little discouraged.

“When starting it up, it’s a little difficult,” Jennifer said. “We didn’t get as many donations as we thought we were going to. But we still kept going.”

They sat, greeting every customer with an eager smile. Every single sale brought them one step closer to a cure, and that was the ultimate goal.

The next step was to get through The Longest Day.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts an annual fundraiser called “The Longest Day” on the summer solstice. Different organizations compete to see who can raise the most money and send it through the Alzheimer Association’s website. 

Despite such a large endeavor before them, the club was prepared. They had their routine down by now. 

“We have a set recipe just because it works so well,” Jennifer said. “We’ve perfected it over time, so it’s a lot better.”

Rachel and Jennifer had calculated the exact number of cookies and cupcakes they needed for each sale. Every other weekend the group would roll out their tables, make their sales, break their tables down and go home with a sense of success.

After weeks of this perfected routine, the team sent $1,020 towards the Longest Day fundraiser. 

“It was just kind of a pat on the back on what we’ve been doing,” Jennifer said. “It’s very encouraging to a smaller club like us.”

As they start off the new school year, the twins want to raise even more money for their grandmother’s cause. However, they are graduating this year, so they are looking for ways to ensure they can continue making a difference.

“We’re hoping to pass down the club to someone here,” Jennifer said. “If not, then continue it ourselves.”

Though the success of the club didn’t come immediately, with perseverance the twins were able to make a significant impact. Jennifer wants others with similar ideas to know that the most important thing is to not give up.

“Keep going at it,” Jennifer said. “Even if there’s not a lot of people backing you up, if it’s something that you’re very passionate about and something you want to donate your time and money to, then just keep going.”

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About the Contributors
Raksha Jayakumar, Managing Editor
Raksha (she/her) is excited for her second year on staff as Managing Editor! She is a huge swiftie, meaning she has good taste (reputation is top-tier). She loves everybody on staff and is super duper excited to work with them all. <3 
Imaan Malik, Reporter
Imaan Malik (she/her) is a first year writer and reporter for the Marquee. She spends a lot of her free time reading, baking, and hanging out with friends. 

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