NEW LONDON -- The word "unbelievable" was uttered repeatedly as volunteers showed up Monday morning at Peace Lutheran Church in New London and saw tables overflowing with chocolate chip cookies.
Bags, boxes, tins and ice cream buckets full of chocolate chip cookies were stacked three and four deep on tables and on the floor.
The aroma in the room was amazing.
It took the 40 volunteers about two hours to pack 14,000 cookies into 120 large boxes that will be flown to Afghanistan and given to U.S. troops serving there.
"I just think this is wonderful, this turnout of people and cookies," said Ardis Lais as she transferred cookies into travel-sturdy containers that were then packed into cardboard boxes.
The cookies will travel from New London to Minneapolis today and be loaded on a Delta Airlines charter plane that is also carrying Minnesota military members who are heading to a new deployment in Afghanistan.
A separate box with 800 chocolate chip cookies was packed just for those troops to eat while on the plane to Afghanistan.
In each box of cookies there is a written message of support and a prayer for the troops' safe return.
Attached to the exterior of each box is a bright orange note that says "cookies for troops in support of Ryane Clark."
Clark, a 22-year old U.S. Army private first class, was killed earlier this month.
The call for donated cookies was initially made to fill the request of Clark's family that chocolate chip cookies be served Sunday following the funeral in New London.
When it became obvious that more than enough cookies would be donated, the decision was made to up the ante and ship as many cookies as possible.
At least 2,000 cookies were served Sunday. Another 14,000 are being sent to troops in Ryane Clark's memory, including local members of the military -- and some of Clark's classmates -- who are currently deployed.
"Operation chocolate chip cookies has far exceeded our expectation of everything," said Becky West, president of the American Legion Auxiliary for Unit 537 in New London, which organized the effort. "And what a wonderful tribute to Ryane, and also to this community."
Besides New London and Spicer, cookies came from places like Willmar, Belgrade, Olivia, Pennock and Paynesville.
"It is just amazing and what a great way to bring together the community," West said.
Volunteers from the Knights of Columbus and Lions got together Sunday night at West Central Industries. Using ingredients the volunteers purchased, the group of 11 made 3,000 cookies that they brought to the church Monday, already boxed up and ready to be sent.
Members of Tripolis Lutheran Church in Kandiyohi gathered at there to bake cookies and donated 39 dozen.
The mother of Army Sgt. Joshua Schmit, a Willmar man who was killed while on duty in 2007, also brought cookies to send to the troops, said Sue Anderson, another auxiliary member who fought back tears.
"All of the cookies are going with a message of support and thanks, and we just want all of those soldiers that eat these cookies to know that we love them and that our prayer is that they return to their families soon," West said.
The Delta flight will take the military members and the cookies to a military base where the cookies will be loaded onto a military plane. They are expected to arrive Wednesday in Afghanistan.
And then, said West, "operation cookie eating frenzy will begin."