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Bill and Janis Altom Serve Their Alma Mater and Their Community

By Janlyn Thaxton



In the front yard of their home on Abilene’s northside, Bill and Janis Altom are sprinkling their favorite rub on 75 pounds of brisket. A fire is burning hot in a smoker sitting by the curb while fragrant smoke can be both seen and smelled from several blocks away.They are doing all of this cooking for a Bible conference at First Baptist Church this week.The Altoms have a long history of volunteerism. At the start of the fall semester, the Altoms can be found with their smoker near the pond at Hardin-Simmons University cooking hamburgers for a Baptist Student Ministries welcome party.{{more}}Bill and Janis open their home to all Hardin-Simmons University students anytime, day or night. In fact, there have been many nights when students simply come over towash clothes or bake a cake attheAltoms home.Both Bill and Janis graduated from HSU, Janis in 1969, and Bill in 1971. The Altoms live close enough to the campus that students have been known to go to their home just to watch television.But the Altoms also have a way of bringing their home to the campus. Since 1983, Bill and Janis have been baking chocolate chip cookies for HSU students and delivering them to a cookie jar which now sits in the Connally Missions Center on campus. Next to the cookies is another jar for students to drop their changeinto when they get cookies. That change is used to support summer missions for BSM.In the very first year, the Altoms delivered 1,300 dozen cookies to HSU students, and have continued to do so for the last 28 years.The practice stated in part because business slows down for theAltoms in the winter, and they have more time. Bill says, “Back in 1983, Janis suggested that there might be some volunteer opportunities at the HSU campus.” Bill and Janis started helping students who were involved inBSM by going with them onmission trips. That, in turn, sparked the idea for the cookies as an ongoing ministries fundraiser. The Altoms have been known to turn out as many as 300 dozen cookies in just eight hours. One year, when the BSM convention was coming to town, the Altoms and 40 HSU students got together to bake enough chocolate chip cookies to give to every student who lived on campus asa reminder to participate in the activities.Bill says they have kept up with the cookie count on a calendar. Every new month, they put the total number of dozens from the last month at the top of the new month.So, how many cookie can you make in 28 years plus a few months? The Altoms delivered their 10,000th dozen to HSU President Dr. Lanny Hall in April 2010. That’s 120,000 cookies!If you ask Bill or Janis why they have baked cookies for HSU students for so many years, they will tell you, “It’s one of the most enjoyable things we do.” As for the cost, Bill just says, “I don’t think we’ve suffered for it, the Lord just continues to help us stretch our dollars.”l to r Dr. Lanny Hall, President of HSU, receives 10,000th dozen of cookies from Bill Altom.

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