Local cookie entrepreneur gives back to community with sweet treats

Staff writerFebruary 13, 2014 

It’s more than just a cookie.

For the shelter residents who will receive a gift box of oatmeal cookies on Valentine’s Day, it’s about the prayer-fueled compassion of Karina Blasco, a Tacoma wife, mother and maker of all things oatmeal.

Earlier this week, Blasco busied herself stuffing decorated take-out containers with red and white tissue paper, cookies and no small measure of love.

Blasco is the founder, owner and sole proprietor of Only Oatmeal Cookie Creations. She bakes, packages and conducts business from a converted garage attached to the North Tacoma home she shares with her husband, daughter and son.

“I only bake oatmeal cookies. It’s the only cookie I know how to make,” she said earlier this week.

Actually, she offers a universe of options that wear the name “oatmeal cookie.”

In her commercial kitchen in the former garage, one wall is taken with bins of flavors and additions. There’s walnut and chocolate chip, toffee and pecan, butterscotch and blueberry and a dozen other morsels and tastes.

The cookies headed for the women and families at the Tacoma YWCA shelter are called Oatmeal Snickerdoodle. Each resident will receive a half dozen, plus one special oatmeal cookie topped by a strawberry baked with dark chocolate.

This seventh cookie in each box will be marked “Just for You.”

Caitlin White, volunteer and resource manager for YWCA Pierce County, said this week: “We are so, so very thankful that Karina was able to give these. It means a lot for our residents.”

The women (and men) and their families are residents of a Tacoma-area shelter that houses victims of domestic violence.

“We’re very thankful for people like Karina, giving with their whole heart and helping folks who are staying here. It makes a huge difference to have that support,” White said.

“I feel that doing things for others, there’s more fulfillment,” Blasco said. “Your efforts go a longer way.”

She opened the first iteration of her cookie business in 2003 after being laid off from a position at Capital One.

“It was something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. She had received what she calls “a nice severance,” and used the money to fund the business. She baked cookies and sold them at local specialty markets. Previously, she had made the cookies at Christmas, and friends and family members urged her to expand.

So she did Easter baskets. She started the business. “I went in unaware,” she said. “It was too much.”

After a year of attempting to balance her responsibilities as a mom and an entrepreneur, she decided to return to a salary. She became an administrator at a fitness club, telling her commercial customers that she would return once her daughter entered kindergarten.

Then she heard her uncle delivering a homily in church, asking “What’s in your wallet?” The larger message, Blasco said, was that “we’re asking God for things, but not using what he’s already given. My cookie business was in my wallet.”

She realized: “I needed to focus more on what God has given me. I can help people through this business.”

She and her husband, a manager for a commercial security service, financed the business through a surprise tax refund.

Last December, approaching a season of gifts, she began thinking, “You’re always looking at how so many people are giving. What about other times of the year that people are in need? I thought about Valentine’s Day, and abused women.”

Early last month she contacted the YWCA shelter. “There are so many people who just need a second chance,” she said. “Just knowing that I helped someone, putting a smile on someone’s face, it brings joy. You can have compassion, but if you don’t do anything, all you’ve got is compassion.”

Her work these past few weeks has aimed at victims of domestic abuse.

“Some of these women might think it’s normal to be abused,” she said. “This small gift, it could be just what they need, especially on Valentine’s Day. I’m doing my part — God will do the rest.”

This year Blasco will concentrate on expanding her market. She has joined Tacoma’s “Go Local,” and is planning to extend her customer base online at onlyoatmealcookie.com.

She would eventually like to leave the garage and open a store at Point Ruston, building her product line to include oatmeal treats as well as savory oatmeal. “When you have been given a vision, no matter how impossible it looks, by faith you stick with it,” she said.

And her gift to residents at the YWCA shelter will comprise more than what’s edible.

“Along with the cookies, I’m sending love and prayers,” she said.

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