Friends and neighbors of Maggie Buntaine, owner of Maggie’s Original Cookie Company in Conway, will host a benefit dinner Saturday to help fund her fight against pancreatic cancer.
Brian Wilhite, owner of Missions Barber College, located next to Maggie’s storefront on Prince Street, is a friend of Buntaine’s and creator of the event.
Wilhite said the owner of the cookie company was diagnosed about two weeks ago, underwent surgery, and is now in recovery.
Wilhite described Buntaine as an unseen force in her community, with a lengthy business and philanthropic presence.
"You always see Maggie’s cookies at events around town," Wilhite said. "You never see her, but she’s at work 90 percent of the time."
Buntaine started her business on Washington Avenue 25 years ago.
The business began delivering cookies months after the storefront at Washington opened, and another location was opened in Little Rock in 2002.
Wilhite said that location closed in an economic downturn.
Business has been steady for the small cookie company in Conway.
Maggie’s offers more than 20 different cookie types, but the most popular is the sugar cookie variety that comes in countlessly customized variations, from frogs to flowers.
Wilhite said Buntaine is already humbled by the forces behind the benefit event, and she has dedicated any residual funds to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which advances research of the disease and supports those in their fight against it.
Wilhite said when he explained the benefit and asked for Buntaine’s blessing, she told him there were probably children who need more help than she does.
"I told her this is your time Miss Maggie. You deserve this, and you’ve given to this community for 25 years," Wilhite said.
She gave her blessing for the event, but Wilhite stressed Buntaine did not ask for a rally of support.
A banner at the business, which replaced a sign signifying the cookie company’s 25th year in Conway, asks customers to pray for Maggie and to help her fight pancreatic cancer by attending the event.
Wilhite said when he hung the banner, he immediately began getting phone calls from community members offering to help add to or coordinate the benefit.
"It blew up fast," he said.
A silent auction and dinner will be held Saturday at 6 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church, 1540 Trison Lane.
Donations for those unable to attend are accepted at Centennial Bank locations.
Buntaine’s son shared a letter of encouragement he said his mother believed accurately described her baking mission:
I absolutely love your cookies!
Every time I think of your cookies or go there I can only think of happiness! :) My sister got a $50 gift card for Christmas and we go there twice a week at least and always get a classic smiley face cookie (our personal favorite) and whatever else we are feeling that day.
It always makes me feel so amazing when I leave. Your business is amazing - I love all of your positive workers that always try to help me on my oh so difficult decision on picking cookies!
I hope through your hard times you will think of all of the happiness you have brought to people in your cookies.
I hope this letter I’m writing you can give a tiny bit of smile to you…I hope you understand how much your amazing cookies mean to everyone; they aren’t just ingredients mixed together and baked - they have hope, happiness and love all baked into them. That is why I love your cookies so much…
— Madison Moline, your #1 fan"
Tickets at $8 each are available at the cookie store, 2850 Prince Street, Suite 17, and at several businesses in Conway.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)