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Bebe Flynn's cookies are delicious, with the perfect balance of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy. What makes them irresistible, though, is that part of the proceeds from her cookie line, Miss Lilly's Trading Company, go to help elderly clients of Meals on Wheels pay for pet food. Flynn, a casting director by trade, was inspired to start her cookie outfit in 2009 after volunteering for Meals on Wheels. There, the out lesbian discovered that 80% of seniors who own pets share their food with them because they can't afford pet food, leading to health problems for both the owner and the pet.
The gourmet cookies are available at markets across Los Angeles and at MissLillysTradingCompany.com. Also, in case you were wondering, Miss Lilly is the name of her rescued dog.
The Advocate: How did your annual fund-raiser go at Saks Fifth Avenue in December?
Bebe Flynn: It was huge. There were probably 600 people there, the majority of them were friends and supporters. Jo Anne Worley and Anne Heche came -- it was just tremendous. Lots of people in the film industry, because I've been a casting director for 30 years, and just literally friends that I've known from New York, people from my whole life. It's the one night of the year that I invite everybody to come, and everybody shows up. I get tremendous support from Saks Fifth Avenue, and for an itty-bitty company like mine, where everything is handmade and there is only three of us working feverishly to do it, it's amazing that a huge corporation like that is so supportive of a little company like mine. And of everything that was sold at the event that night, 5% goes to my charity, which is Feeding the Elderly's Pets, and another 5% went to the local Meals on Wheels.
How did you start volunteering?
I was volunteering for Meals on Wheels and driving around giving away meals, and I realized that elderly people were using the food to feed their pets. These people were so dependent on these meals, and they have a lot of pets -- cats, dogs, birds. This woman had like 47 birds.
I have five dogs, five cats. I have a great love of animals and a great affection of elderly people. My mother is 94 and my father just passed away at 92. And my mother's really attached to this cat. And that sometimes is the only living thing that she is involved with every day, so I recognized that right away. So I just thought, Who is getting food for the pets? Because many are insolvent, I realized these people were not going to the store or going shopping. So I went home and I got out my mixer and started to bake cookies. And as I was making these cookies, I thought, I can sell these cookies!
How has your professional life as a casting director influenced your altruistic work?
When I was in New York, somebody asked, "Can anybody go up and down the East Coast and cast trick animals, piano-playing dogs, and things like that?" And I didn't even know how to use a video camera, but I was like, "I can do it." So when a big casting director came to New York and was doing something for a big Toys "R" Us commercial back in the '80s, she said, "Oh, my God, I really love your work. I want you to come work for me." And I ended up following her all over the country casting for stuff. I eventually ended up opening up my own company, and I have always done these enormous commercials. So if you're looking for an Eskimo in India, you send me out there to find them. I've had to do cancer survivors and once had to find three generations of a family that used Tide detergent. So I've really been able to step into so many people's lives. I think that's one of the reasons I have so much empathy toward these elderly people, because I see so much loneliness and I've seen so many lives.