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51 weeks of cookies: LI baker gives back to hospital staff

Sarah Geiser, of Belle Terre, has been baking

Sarah Geiser, of Belle Terre, has been baking cookies and cupcakes every week for the staff at Stony Brook University Hospital since April 2020. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman; Photo credits: Gail Geiser, Debbie Del Giorno, Omar Abuzeid

Fifty-one weeks of baked goods.

Sarah Geiser has been baking for the staff of Stony Brook University Hospital’s labor and delivery unit every week since April 1, 2020 — close to when the coronavirus pandemic began.

The 27-year-old baker changes the flavors every week so the staff never knows what kind of treats they’ll get.

"I usually bake cupcakes and cookies," said Geiser, of Belle Terre. "I like Funfetti the best."

Debbie Del Giorno, a nurse in the unit, has known Geiser since she was 4 years old. They used to be neighbors.

When the pandemic began, work became "very traumatic," Del Giorno said — she took care of mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 and had miscarriages. Her co-workers were deployed to other parts of the hospital to help with the influx of COVID patients.

"We were short-staffed, and it was overwhelming," she said. "We needed something to cheer us up."

Geiser used to bake treats regularly for the soup kitchen of Saint Gerard Majella Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson Station. She also volunteered four days a week at Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue in Port Jefferson Station. Both of these efforts were put on hold when the coronavirus outbreak started, said Geiser’s mother, Gail Geiser.

"She’s always loved to bake," said Gail Geiser. "We were trying to find something she could do with it, instead of us eating everything."

She talked to Del Giorno, and they decided that every Thursday, goodies by Geiser would be delivered to the hospital. Geiser’s father, Jim, meets Del Giorno outside the front entrance every week to drop them off.

Geiser has baked two dozen cupcakes and about 30 cookies every week for almost a full year.

Del Giorno said the staff is "constantly running" and sometimes they don’t have time to take a lunch break. Grabbing a treat on the move is the perfect way to get their sugar fix.

"Everybody on my unit knows that on Thursdays, Sarah’s cookies and cupcakes are gonna come," she said.

For Geiser, who is on the autism spectrum, this act of kindness has become a part of her daily routine. Whether she’s shopping for ingredients, baking or frosting her creations, each week culminates in a sweet delivery to Stony Brook.

"She enjoys it so much," Gail Geiser said. "It’s the perfect way for her to keep giving to the community and doing what she loves."

Even during snowstorms, Jim Geiser always delivered his daughter’s baked goods to the hospital. Del Giorno said they’ve never missed a week.

Geiser has decorated cupcakes with hearts and pink icing for Valentine’s Day, and of course red and green toppings for Christmas. She’s never baked the same treat twice in a row, her mother said. She alternates flavors each week, ranging from rich red velvet to tropical pineapple.

Even though the cookies and cupcakes have become a fixture at the hospital, the staff — besides Del Giorno — have never met Geiser in person.

"Once we lift [visitation] restrictions, Sarah will come up for lunch and meet the staff on a Thursday," Del Giorno said.

In the meantime, the staff has shown their appreciation. They made Geiser a thank-you card, packed with messages and signatures. The staff also put together a photo album for her, showing them enjoying the cookies and cupcakes over the course of a year. They’ve even given her gift cards.

Geiser said baking for the nurses makes her feel "very proud."

"We refer to Sarah as our ray of sunshine," Del Giorno said. "Did I ever think she would still be baking cookies and cupcakes? No, I did not, but she’s determined. She’s a very sweet young lady who wanted to do something good for our department."

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