High noon, Thanksgiving Eve, 2010, Standish, Maine: The kitchen at St. Joseph’s College is a flurry of activity. Some 45 bold volunteers are covered with aprons; sleeves are rolled up. Their mission? Bake 150 apple pies completely from scratch in just three hours.

Flour was everywhere. The volunteers set up in teams of four with each member having a task: dough-maker, apple-peeler, apple mixer/pie assembler, and crust-topper. The pies would be a special addition to Thanksgiving food baskets given away each year by the college’s charitable food pantry, Catherine’s Cupboard.

“It’s really exciting and we have a lot of fun doing it,” said Amy Russell, pantry coordinator. “This is the second year we’ve decided to add a pie to each Thanksgiving basket. Last year we made 120; this year we’re shooting for 150.”

One four-person team, Suzan Nelson, Kim Manoush, Janet Waterhouse and Wendy Miller, had assembled their quota in a little over two hours. The ovens filled with dozens of bubbling pies. The smell was extraordinary.

“This is my first year,” Miller said. “My mother (Janet Waterhouse) told me all about it. She’s the veteran of the team. We belong to Rebekah’s. As soon she said she was making pies for the community, I was all about getting in there with her.”

There was a given recipe, but folks were free to bring their own version if they chose. Variations on pie crust were also allowed. The whole concept is the brainchild of Stuart Leckie, general manager at Bon App?t, the college’s food vendor. Bon App?t donated everything for the effort, including all food items — about 1,200 apples — and equipment.

The bakers were volunteers who heard about the challenge through e-mails, newspapers and postings. The staff at Bon App?t was under no obligation to participate, but some stayed to help after the college closed for the holiday break.

“We try to coordinate the whole thing, but we really just let the volunteers go at it,” Leckie explained. “There’s all different pies at the end — the good, bad and the ugly. But that’s OK. It’s all for charity.”

Some students from Lake Region High School formed a team: Hannah Perkins, Jessica Johnson, Jen Laurent and Doe Leckie put about 10 pies together. Leckie made the dough Laurent peeled apples, Johnson mixed the spices and apples, and Perkins placed the crust on top.

“Doe made the dough!” they joked, smiling.

The volunteers surpassed the 150-pie goal. The final tally came in at 182. Stuart Leckie is inspired by the effort and has already posed a challenge for 2011. “We may just shoot for 1,000 pies next year,” he said, “and it would likely expand to other food pantries.”

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]