[Aug. 25, 2020: The Daily Gazette]
STILLWATER -- When 3-year-old Mia Villa heads to the kitchen to bake her next batch of cookies, she doesn’t need a recipe. Donning her chef’s hat and apron, she stands on a stool to reach the counter and carefully measures out sugar, baking soda and flour.
The youngster has spent her summer bringing homemade chocolate chip cookies and smiles to first-responders around the Capital Region.
The young baker has made more than cookies from her Stillwater home since July, through a project the family’s calling Mia’s Cookie Jar. She and her mom, Devin Villa, make deliveries a few times a week to police stations, hospitals, fire stations, and other places.
“With the pandemic and everything being shut down, [there’s] a lot of pressure on the first-responders,” Devin said, “I use this is a way to teach her about the people that we are most grateful for and she can do something she loves.”
The young baker, who is the great-granddaughter of former Amsterdam Mayor Mario Villa and the granddaughter of former Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa, has developed a fan base on Facebook and Instagram, gaining what she calls “cookie followers,” and posting about the deliveries and her baking process. While the project started small, it’s grown quite a lot. Last week, the project was featured on WRGB/CBS 6 and a few days later Devin got a call from a national news station, which plans to feature a story on Mia's Cookie Jar.
The motto for the project is “Learning lessons and spreading kindness one cookie at a time,” and she certainly sticks to that.
While baking, Mia sings songs like “Pat-a-cake” to help her remember to pack in the brown sugar. She also dances whenever she runs the stand mixer. Mia rarely if ever needs to ask for help and the only part of the process that her mom still handles is putting the cookies in the oven.
“She does it all by herself,” Devin said. But Mia’s younger brother Gino is her quality assurance team, taste-testing cookies whenever he’s needed.
Baking is in the Villa’s bloodline, according to Devin. She baked with her mom growing up and it was clear from a very early age that Mia would be the same way.
“I have pictures back as far as 18 months with her [at the counter], Devin said.
As Mia will readily tell anyone, her favorite thing to make is chocolate chip cookies. She uses the same memorized recipe that Devin has relied on for years.
“My mom gave me a cookbook, my first cookbook, in 1997. This recipe is in it and I have made these I cannot tell you how many times in my life. Everyone that has ever tried them loves them. It’s one of those tried and true [recipes],” Devin said.
Each batch that they deliver is baked fresh that morning and gets boxed up, with a picture from Mia.
“Every picture is different and she won’t let me look at them until she’s done," Devin said. "Then she can say her explanation. That’s my favorite part of the whole thing and it’s always geared toward where we’re going so it proves to me that she’s understanding what she’s learning.”
As word has spread about the project, people have also started to donate supplies.
“It’s awesome because I try to do two to three deliveries a week with her, but whatever we don’t have donated, we’re paying for. It’s not like it’s crazy [expensive] but I can’t believe the generosity of people. It’s super helpful,” Devin said.
They plan to continue the project in the coming months, reaching out to different emergency services agencies all over the Capital Region to bring a batch of cookies and a bit of joy.
“I’m proud of her. It’s good to see . . . If a three-year-old can do something like this then we all should be able to do something kind for someone,” Devin said.
To learn more about the project, visit Mia’s Cookie Jar on Facebook or Instagram.
At every place they’ve delivered cookies to, Mia has gotten to learn a bit more about what each first-responder does, from fighting fires to healing wounds.
“She can’t wait to see where we’re going," Devin said. "There’s always something new to learn. It’s been a great thing. It’s a way for her to express kindness and bring people her cookies.”
Wherever they make deliveries, the first-responders often have a gift for Mia at the ready. She's received junior police badges, a patch from Knolls Atomic Laboratory and other tokens. That generosity has surprised both her and her mom.
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Want to learn more?
You can follow Mia's Cookie Jar on Facebook.
You can follow Mia's Cookie Jar on Instagram.
You can learn more about the Knolls Atomic Laboratory here.