Homemade Cookies in New Haven

by Susan Huppert, NAMMA

Cookies make a difference to seafarers.

Chaplain Ruth Setaro has been visiting the ships in the Port of New Haven, CT for more than 26 years. Her committed partner in seafarers’ welfare work, Ute Brinkmann has a heart for seafarers. She doesn’t visit ships. She bakes cookies. Every week dozens of cookies are delivered and slid into the chaplain’s backpack as she heads for the port. Parking alongside the massive vessels she proceed up the gangways to give cookies to seafarers.

“It is my calling,” said Brinkmann with delight.

The pair met when Brinkmann noticed some empty cookie tins at Trinity Lutheran Church where they attended. After learning about the port ministry, the 61-year-old German lady was hooked.   

“The secret of serving seafarers spilled over in my life,” said Brinkmann.

So every week she bakes fresh cookies for seafarers. Not just a few, but dozens, all done using her small, but mighty oven.

“Baking cookies for them is my mission,” she said. “I will never drop that.”

Even when she has to bake at 6 a.m. on a Sunday, she does.

“If it is a calling you can never stop that.”

Brinkmann, a skilled builder and reconstructionist of violins and master of many other trades has been baking cookies for delivery since 2009. She loves her personal role in the massive world of seafaring.  

“It is not the cookie itself,” said Brinkmann. “It’s the fact that seafarers know someone is thinking about them.”

“Cookies make people happy,” said Setaro. 

As she bakes for many nationalities, Brinkmann found that basic cookies cross cultures the best. She bakes shortbread.

She feels the more she bakes the more seafarers are positively affected.   

The pair cannot recall when the cookie tins were first placed at the New Haven church by the International Seafarers’ House in New York.  It has been quite a while.

Brinkman grew up in Germany and recalls as a child hearing a radio program that aired on Christmas Eve. She heard families sending messages of love to family members away.  Somehow the calling to bake for seafarers hit a nostalgic nerve as she remembered others missing their families at Christmas.

“It had a big impact on me as a child,” she said. “Baking cookies for seafarers away from family has a big impact for me as well.”

“Sometimes we need to ask, what can I do? What am I here for? Serving seafarers like this gives me purpose.”

She has no plans to slow down, only to humbly inspire others.

“We all can hear the call. It is for everyone.”