Since the mid-1960's, Hallmark Cards Inc. employees, past and present, and their spouses, have gathered each year - not for an exchange of greeting cards, but of cookies.
Hallmark, the 103-year-old Kansas City-based company, has about 11,000 employees around the world, including just over 3,000 in the metro area.
Donna Moore, a former employee, began working for Hallmark in 1962. She recalls how the event became an annual tradition, mostly for women.
"It was started by a group of us, and we decided it would be fun to have a cookie exchange every single year and keep ourselves in tune with each other," Moore says. "So it’s been going on for 40 some years."
On Tuesday, about a baker's dozen of current and former Hallmark employees stopped by this year's cookie exchange at Kathy Barnard Studio at 16th and Locust in Kansas City, Mo. A glass artist, Barnard started her career at Hallmark. She says the cookie exchange provides an opportunity to reconnect.
"I love to share what I’m doing with the women here. It’s always a wonderful network of people. All these women are just so alive and vibrant," Barnard says.
'Christmas all year long'
"Christmas is always important at Hallmark because (laughs), in the Christmas season I think they’re working on summer things, but you are experiencing Christmas in your homes," says Kathy Killip, a former Hallmark artist. "And then in the opposite season, you’re experiencing Christmas at Hallmark because that’s when the designing is done for Hallmark. So, it’s sort of like Christmas all year long (laughs)."
Creating a sense of camaraderie
"When people started with Hallmark in the '60s, they had new artist groups and those groups really had camaraderie and they would do things together," says Jayne Rudish, who's not an Hallmark employee, but she's married to one: artist Rich Rudish.
"When my husband was in charge of it, they would have social events to bring all these people together who were coming from different states," Rudish says. "They came from all the art schools, all over the United States and this was a way for them to bond. And they did."
Moving forward through the decades
"I came to Hallmark right out of school from Boston, got hired when I was 20 and and arrived here on the doorstep at 21," says Marianne Smith Getchell, a retired vice president of Creative Strategy and Global Synergies at Hallmark Cards.
"When I first started, we could not wear anything but dresses and you’re painting all the time," adds Smith Getchell. "I mean, you had to wear a smock, so that’s very different when you think of women in the '70s, versus 2013. It took a lot of movement forward."
"I don’t remember ever that any male artists were ever invited," says former Hallmarker Kathy Killip. "It was sort of a girls thing. It was so amazing to get together with all of our friends at Hallmark because you came away from the cookie exchange being invigorated and refreshed and renewed, because everyone shared such a creativity for life that it was amazing."
Food nurturing and sustaining friendships
"To be able to bond with multiple people who have reached a level of giving their creativity and sharing it with everybody, it’s like food, food that replenishes you," says Kathy Killip.
"Well, I think that sharing a food is obviously the thing that really brings women together, and these women dating back before 1970 when I started, we want to keep together," says Marianne Smith Getchell. "We want to keep the friendships going that were so strong when we were at Hallmark. We’ll be friends forever."
Taking a look back