While some middle and high school kids planned their Thanksgiving vacations this past weekend, went to the movies or played video games, a group of teens in Sag Harbor were busy making pies — four kinds to be exact — for the local food pantry.
In the basement of Stella Maris Regional School, members of the St. Andrew Youth Group, led by Denny Boyle, spent their weekend assembling and baking hundreds of pies for the food pantry and to sell to the general community in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Aroma” was the word that Janie Peters, principal at Stella Maris, used to describe not only the scent of cinnamon emanating from the school’s basement kitchen on Saturday, but the entire experience and feeling at the school over the weekend.
The busy hands of the middle and high school students in the youth group were complemented by those of local volunteers who joined them to make a difference for those who use local food pantries, including the Sag Harbor Food pantry in the basement of the Old Whalers’ Church.
Last Thursday, the race was on for approximately 45 kids in the youth group as they went to Kraszewski Farm in Southampton where they hand-picked over 40 bushels of apples to use in their annual pie-making event.
The kids tore through the fields, looking for the ripest apples to use for their apple-crumb pie — a community favorite.
Lucky for them, Tim Kraszewski didn’t charge a thing. He donated the apples for the pies and by Friday afternoon, the kids filled the kitchen at Stella Maris where they cut, chopped, sliced, cored and peeled the apples. They also prepped other ingredients for three other types of pies. As the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air and mounds of flour and sugar surrounded them, the kids — like worker-bees busy making a hive — created 452 pies for the community.
“We had a few food fights,” admitted seventh grader Ashley Nill. Classmate Diana Rozzi said although there were some flour and food fights they also put in a lot of hard work and had a lot of fun.
On Saturday, the teens worked at Stella Maris from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Several pies were sold during the annual Stella Maris cocktail party on Saturday night. By Sunday, nearly 70 pies were delivered to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry where they were distributed to needy families who came to pick up fixings for their turkey dinner on Tuesday. More pies went out to other area food pantries as well.
The pie effort was started as a simple idea more than 10 years ago by Boyle when he wanted to find a fundraiser that the kids could take part in as well as give back to the local community. The kids started out making only apple and pumpkin pies, but last year they introduced banana crÃ¨me and chocolate crÃ¨me pies.
This year, the numbers of those in need using the pantry at the Whalers’ Church reached an all-time high, according to Lillian Woudsma, pantry director. For their part, the kids were then put to the test to bake more pies than ever.
“It was so fun,” Anna Winchell said on Monday.
“It was good to all come together and help other people here, in Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Westhampton,” said friend Kaci Koehne.
The girls said although it seemed at times like the pie baking marathon would never end, it was fun to be a part of the madness.
“It was amazing to see them all work together,” parent and volunteer Cheryl Rozzi said on Monday.
“It was a good turnout,” Rozzi said, “it was so nice to see them all getting along so well.”
While some of the kids did the prepping, others were working the phones —taking the numbers from the order sheets they saved from the year prior to call parents and other community members to actively sell their baked goods.
“Some were saved in a database,” Peters said of the phone numbers for those who were called. “The kids also went from door to door in town asking people to purchase the pies and either keep them or donate them to the pantry.”
“The entire community was a part of the effort,” Peters said.
Boyle added, “Part of it we did for the food pantry and part of it was for the youth group.”
“Teenagers always get a bad rap, but if anyone could have seen these kids – the older helping the younger ones – it was just beautiful,” Peters said.
With hundreds of pies to bake, the youth group called on local restaurants to borrow their ovens.
“We baked in the ovens at Conca D’Oro, Il Cappuccino and the fire department, we baked all over,” said Boyle. “When you have to bake 450 pies — you had better find a way to do it.”
“The kids got really involved,” noted Jim Renner of Il Cappuccino. “Three kids came in with the pies and then asked for Fettuccini Alfredo.”
So on Saturday, Renner brought some complimentary garlic knots to Stella Maris for the kids.