HORNELL — This community has a sweet spot in its heart for the Hornbeck family and Cynthia's Cookies and More, a popular Maple City bakery.
Cynthia's prized cookie recipes may be locked in a vault, according to her children, but a recent devastating accident that critically injured Mrs. Hornbeck has unlocked the generosity and caring of the local community.
While Mrs. Hornbeck fights to make a full physical recovery in a Rochester hospital, the lights have been mostly dimmed in the bakery business. But not so this week. The Hornbeck children, with plenty of help, have pulled together and donned aprons. There have been cookies in the oven, and residents by the hundreds stopping by to grab some treats and drop off monetary donations.
Cynthia Hornbeck's life changed in an instant on the first day of this month.
"It was Aug. 1, my mom was riding her bicycle home from St. Ann's Church," explained Mickey Hornbeck, Cynthia's 32-year-old son who lives in Oregon. "It was just a crazy occurrence. Right at the exact time, somebody opened their car door. She hit the door and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"She was life-flighted to Strong Memorial Hospital (in Rochester) and she has been in the Intensive Care Unit ever since then. She wasn't conscious for the first 10 days."
Cynthia Hornbeck began to rally last Sunday, lifting the spirits of her family, on what was already a special day.
"She opened her eyes (for the first time) on her 62nd birthday, which was Aug. 10," Mickey Hornbeck said. "That morning she opened her eyes and started showing signs of alertness. And since then she has been slowly progressing."
Mickey Hornbeck explained that his mom began answering yes and no questions by blinking. After a breathing tube was removed, "She slowly started talking too," Mickey Hornbeck said.
The family is hopeful that Mrs. Hornbeck will be moved from the ICU in the next few day, and it won't be long before she can begin physical therapy. She still faces many challenging weeks and months in her recovery.
While Cynthia's husband, Mike, has been reluctant to leave her side at Strong Memorial, the children — Lyza, Joe, Pete and Mickey — have found strength in each other.
There are understandably many unanticipated expenses involved when a family members is in the middle of a long stay at an out-of-town hospital. None of the Hornbeck children live in Hornell any longer, which makes arrangements challenging. After the accident, the Hornbeck siblings returned to Hornell from the Pacific Northwest, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Hornbecks, none of whom have gone into baking as a career, unpacked some supplies and decided to have a three day cookie extravaganza adjacent to their mother's Maple Street store. They are accepting donations for bags of cookies.
The selections are chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter, and they were getting scooped up quickly on Wednesday, when some 1,500 cookies were baked and distributed. There was a steady stream of visitors on Thursday as well. Folks picked up cookies, stuffed donations into a collection container, and then often paused for a few moments to share a hug or a few words with the Hornbecks.
Friends and extended family members have pitched in, enthusiastically. The Hornbecks express gratitude to Cynthia's sister, Andrea Deebs, and Andrea's 7 children, and to Sarah Conklin, a former employee at Cynthia's Cookies.
"She has just been incredible. She's keeping us on track," Mickey Hornbeck said.
Conklin has a different job now, but she took this week off to assist with the cookie sale.
"We don't have much baking experience," conceded Joe Hornbeck, who lives in Harrisonburg, Pa.
"She saved our butts," Mickey Hornbeck admitted.
While Cynthia Hornbeck has months of recovery facing her, if this week is any indication, she has an entire city's well wishes and prayers.
"We couldn't ask for more, just unbelievable," Joe Hornbeck said of the community's response this week. "It was unexpected. You know the community is there, and it is a small town, but being away so long you forget that small town feeling."
From talking to local residents since the accident, the brothers say its apparent that their mom formed close, personal connections with a countless number of people. The three-day cookie baking marathon continues today. Judging by the response on Wednesday and Thursday, there will be bags of cookies going to every corner of Hornell.
"People are really concerned about how she is," Mickey Hornbeck said. "We can't thank the community enough. We are so thankful for everybody's help and support. You just don't expect people to be so kind and caring."