STANDISH — When the St. Joseph’s College campus closed for Thanksgiving break at noon Wednesday, things were just starting to heat up in the cafeteria in Mercy Hall.

Eleven apple pies were cooling on racks, nine more were ready to be baked and about 50 others were in the oven.

Two hundred twenty-five families had signed up to receive Thanksgiving food baskets, each one with a freshly baked pie, from Catherine’s Cupboard, a food pantry run by the college. Pickups started at 3 p.m. at Standish Town Hall.

“We’ve never missed a deadline for the pies,” said Amy Russell, the food pantry’s director. She wasn’t worried that this year, the fifth annual bake-off, would be any different.

Just about every surface in the kitchen and food service area was covered with flour and piles of apple peels, as were some tables in the dining hall. About 50 volunteers, including St. Joseph’s students and staff members and residents of the area, urgently assembled the pies.

Everyone had a task – rolling out dough, peeling apples, cutting them into slices or mixing in spices.

Some piled the filling high into giant mounds. Others made lattice crusts.

“Every one’s a little different,” said Stuart Leckie, manager of the college’s food service program, which donated the ingredients.

Sarah Shannon, a junior at Windham High School who’s an aspiring pastry chef, made decorative leaves out of dough for one pie and a snowman for another. She had come with a friend whose mother works at the college.

Patricia Ireland, the director of the college’s online theology program, also brought her mother.

“She’s cracking the whip,” Ireland said of 88-year-old Mimi Sodano.

The group made five pies in the first hour.

In the kitchen, 11- and 8-year-old brother and sister Ethan and Virginia March took over the egg wash station.

They reached above their heads and squatted to the floor to pull trays of uncooked pies off a rack, trying hard not to drop them.

Each would grab a pastry brush from the bucket of egg wash and slather the liquid on top, then let Leckie know that more pies were ready for the oven.

The last one went in at 1:55 p.m., just before the three-hour goal and with more than an hour to spare before the Thanksgiving meals were to be distributed.

Russell said people who come to pick up the food baskets always comment about the pies and how they’re still hot.

“It’s the most special part,” she said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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