By Carol Lawson-Swezey
Sugar, flour and butter.
For most it’s a simple recipe for cookies. For Patiane Shimizu, they’re ingredients for doing good.
Shimizu, the owner of home-based business The Cottage Baker, bakes cookies for a cause. The proceeds from the thousands of sugar cookies she’s baked have gone to fund hospices, children’s hospitals, the heart association and, most recently, IRISglobal.org, an international relief organization which provides food, water pumps and education against human trafficking overseas.
“My passion is not baking,” said Shimizu. “My passion is giving; the baking is a means to an end. God takes what we give and makes it go a long way.”
Shimizu, a retired Clovis Unified teacher who currently works as a part-time supervisor of student teachers at Fresno State, started baking designer decorated cookies to fundraise about 15 years ago. Her first project funded Christian Freedom International, a charity which her son and his wife were involved in. CFI distributed backpacks with necessities like toothbrushes and toothpaste in Burma and Laos.
When she first started, she was still working full-time and with the help of friend Sharon Lamb , did the baking after school and on the weekends. Although she admits to getting tired, she is never weary of helping.
“I will never be as tired as the people I am donating to,” Shimizu said. “People who don’t know where the food to feed their children will come from and who walk two hours a day to get water in Mozambique.”
Shimizu creates her cookies with a purpose in her charming cottage near the heart of Old Town Clovis. The front yard and white picket fence enclose a paradise of a birdhouse village. Her open and welcoming beach-like abode is infused with the smell of fresh baking and well-loved upcycled furniture and curios, each which tells a story.
A large tepanyaki table and butcher block table fill her kitchen, and artifacts are lovingly brought back to life with new purpose. Several old doors and rescued picket fences embrace places of honor, and hundreds of cookie cutters hang from an old screen door salvaged from her husband Geno’s boyhood home.
Patiane and Geno have been married for 20 years. They met when both were teachers at Jefferson Elementary. It was not love at first sight.
“I thought he was a stupid jock and he wondered where I parked my broom,” Patiane Shimizu said.
Patiane has two children from her first marriage: Jenny, who lives in Lemoore and J.C., who resides in Pasadena. One of her five grandchildren, Patrick, 18, lives with them. The other four come every summer for Camp Zu (named after Shimizu) for a two-week sleepover complete with customized T-shirts, excursions, field trips and, of course, baking and eating. This year’s theme will be the solar system.
The dynamic duo of Patiane and Geno are a formidable force of good will. Geno is a home economics and teen living teacher at Alta Sierra. He has been the president of the Clovis Community Church, a Japanese-American civic organization, for 25 years and until recently spent his Friday nights as volunteer chef at the Old Clovis Hotel and Bistro in Old Town.
Geno has also turned his passion for cooking into a fervor for helping. He donates his culinary talents as a tepanyaki cook for silent auction fundraisers.
“I am more of a background person,” Patiane Shimizu admits. “And Geno is a ‘give me a mic kind of guy.’”
Patiane’s projects have been as varied as wedding cookies with a bride’s filigree frosting and a groom’s Marine uniform, to tea cup and saucer cookies for a high tea fundraiser. She also sells her wares at the Biscotti House on Clovis Avenue during special occasions, and holds cooking decorating sessions for fund raising. She considers herself not particularly creative, but “exceptionally productive.”
When close friend Bill Shipley ran for Centennial Sheriff for the City of Clovis’ 100th birthday, Patiane gave a cookie to each person who voted for Bill.
“Bill won,” Shimizu said. “It’s amazing what a cookie can do.”
Amazing, indeed. Thousands of cookies later, Patiane Shimizu has left her mark – by feeding children, providing clean water, basic necessities and more – all with some sugar, flour and butter.
“We all have different hearts for what we do,” she said. “This is mine.”