Cassie Sutton and Emily Schmidt pulled their red and black checkered van into an Islip Terrace parking lot, unsure of what to expect when they reached their destination, the housing advocacy agency Mercy Haven.
No one was told that Sutton and Schmidt, who are working for the summer as “ambassadors” for Vermont-based Cabot Creamery Co-operative, would stop by Thursday.
The surprise is part of their job: The pair are committing “random acts of cheddar” along the East Coast this summer as part of a nationwide campaign to give cheese and cheer to nonprofits and volunteer organizations. It’s meant to be a sign of appreciation from Cabot’s farmers.
At Mercy Haven, Schmidt and Sutton were greeted with smiles and even a dance when they dropped off a bag filled with snack-sized, individually-wrapped, ‘seriously-sharp’ cheddar.
“This is lovely,” receptionist Carol Willis said. “This is how you brighten a day.”
Sutton, 23, and Schmidt, 22, recent University of Vermont graduates, hand-delivered cheese to about 50 Long Island nonprofits, volunteer organizations, service groups and police and fire stations from Monday through Friday. The groups were selected from a list provided by Cabot employees and Long Islanders who spotted the van and made recommendations. Sutton and Schmidt also kept their eyes peeled for volunteer fire departments and other places they could stop at to recognize those who help their communities.
The tradition started more than a decade ago, said Cabot spokesman Nate Formalarie. He said farmers traditionally come from rural communities where they are volunteers.
“They like to thank people doing those same type of things in communities where we’re bringing our cheese,” he said.
Sutton, who is from Norwich, in Chenango County, and Schmidt, from Rockland County, stopped by the Deer Park offices of the United Way of Long Island, the Mineola offices of the American Red Cross of Long Island, the Pal-O-Mine Equestrian center in Islandia and Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County, in Roslyn.
“We truly believe that volunteerism is very important and underappreciated, so we were very excited to thank those people that don’t necessarily get the thank you’s they deserve,” Sutton said.
They also shared information about Cabot’s rewards program, which allows volunteers and their groups to log their volunteer hours and win money for their organizations or vacations for themselves, according to a Cabot brochure.
Myrnissa Stone-Sumair, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County, was alone in the organization’s office Tuesday afternoon when Schmidt and Sutton stopped by, cheese in tow.
Stone-Sumair said she was surprised. She had never heard of Cabot cheese, but said she was glad the company had heard of her group.
“It helps us to know that our work is not going unnoticed . . . and that somebody took the time to come in and thank us with a tangible gift and not just a thank you or nice comment,” she said. “They came in, and did it unexpectedly . . . and weren’t looking for anything from us.”