Send them cookies:

One woman volunteers to satisfy Oregon soldiers' sweet teeth with fresh-baked goodies
Sending cookies to troops in Afghanistan is one of Umpqua Bank Manager Leslie Warnerís volunteer activities. The bank allows each of its employees up to 40 paid hours per year to volunteer in their community. pennell photo 3-7-07

Every month, Oregon National Guard Sgt. Barrett Smith can count on a shipment of cookies to arrive in Gardez, Afghanistan, with his name on it.

Leslie Warner, store manager at Umpqua Bank on Poplar Drive in Medford, has been sending Smith and his troops cookies since his departure last spring.

After a chance meeting with Warner at an Umpqua Bank in Roseburg, the two have been in correspondence ever since.

"He was teasing me on the phone about making cookies," Warner said. "So one day my mom and I baked six batches of cookies and sent them to him." Chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal, she said.

When Warner transferred to take the management position in Medford, she also transferred her monthly tradition of cookie deliveries.

"It's something we've opted to do here," said Warner. "I don't bake them anymore though."

When cookies from Brookies Cookies are ordered for store customers, a few extra boxes are ordered and shipped to Smith.

"The guys get excited," Warner said smiling. "It would be nice to send them milk to go with it."

Cookie shipments are something that Warner introduced to the bank on her own, and just one way she volunteers her time. All employees are eligible to take part in Umpqua Bank's Connect Volunteer Network.

Through the program, associates are allowed up to 40 paid hours per year to volunteer in their local community.

Last year, employees volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Start Making a Reader Today and in local schools.

Warner and her fellow employees also take part in annual fundraisers. Every September, Umpqua Bank partners with Friends of the Animal Shelter and hosts "Coins for Kitties," which raises money to help save homeless cats and kittens.

"We're all a bunch of softies," she said. "We wore kitty ears and really enjoyed raising the funds." Between the four participating stores in the area, Umpqua Bank raised more than $1,000 for the shelter.

Despite a busy schedule and other volunteer responsibilities, Warner has stayed committed to doing her part to help Smith and his troops be more comfortable overseas.

"The sacrifices the men are making over there — they are making sure we are safe," she said. "I wish we could do more."

Heather Black is a Southern Oregon University student interning with the Mail Tribune.

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