It wasn’t long after the doors opened at 9 a.m. Saturday for the 17th annual Help The Hungry Bake Sale, people began streaming out of the St. Joseph Catholic School gymnasium in Farmington, carrying armloads of crafts, cakes, cookies and other goodies to their cars.
Inside, among the Christmas decorations and tables filled with all kinds of delectables, crowds of people strolled around the gym as they searched for delicious holiday treats and treasures to take home and enjoy or give as gifts. It was perhaps the largest crowd to come out for one of the Parkland’s most popular events in years.
That may be because, more than anything else, the bake sale is a place where folks gather to see friends and neighbors, as well as renew old acquaintances. Throughout the gym, groups of three or four people could be seen standing together in tight circles, sharing the latest family updates and sharing a joke or two. The atmosphere was joyful.
This year’s Help The Hungry Bake Sale theme was “Bake It to 1 Million.” The bake sale committee came up with the theme after discovering that the fundraiser had, over the previous 16 years, raised $875,000 for the two food pantries.
“Then we also noticed that we were only $125,000 away from giving $1 million to the two food pantries, so we got super-excited about that,” said Committee Chair Chris Landrum. “In everything we did this year, we were looking at what would take us to $1 million.”
The main floor of the bake sale wasn’t the only place where lots of things were happening.
In a room off the gym, people were lining up for biscuits and gravy, coffee, soft drinks and other snacks served by a team of friendly volunteers next door to a room where children sat at round tables, working on fun activities in the new Kids’ Corner that provided a haven for youngsters while their parents shopped the sale.
Erin Overcast of Farmington, who has attended previous Help The Hungry Bake Sales, described the annual fundraiser as “an amazing event.” She went on to say, “I think the turnout is remarkable. There are a lot of people here!”
Asked if she planned to purchase any items at the bake sale, Overcast said, “Yes, my mom’s birthday is on Thanksgiving, and she always makes pies, and I’m not a pie maker. So, I picked up the pies here and told her just to enjoy the day.”
At the front of the gym were rows of chairs facing an elevated platform fronted by all kinds of quilts, paintings, Christmas knick-knacks, decorations, dolls, art pieces and even an outdoor grill. These were among the items auctioned off during the bake sale that, along with the purchasing of food and craft items, raised money, as it does every year, for the Ministerial Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul food pantries in Farmington.
Serving as auctioneer was local radio personality Mark Toti who, as he does every year, kept the crowd entertained and the bidding competitive. Meanwhile, a silent auction served as a draw for those who might not be as much of a fan of the public bidding process.
Dr. Joe Gilgour, Mineral Area College president, also a returning guest to the bake sale, said, “It’s overwhelming — in a good way! There’s food everywhere and crafts. It’s really impressive, what the community does.”
Gilgour said he was also pleased to be part of an event that does so much good for the community.
“When you work at a community college, we see hungry students all the time,” he said. “The community has more hunger than people know. This organization, with all they’ve done, is tremendous — and they’re almost to a million dollars over their period of history. I’m just excited to see it.”
Last year’s exciting finale to the bake sale was the Cooking Clergy Contest which raised a record-breaking $59,890. The eight clergies who participated in this year’s contest broke the 2021 total by more than $6,000.
“Our Cooking Clergy Contest raised approximately $66,000 this year,” Landrum said. “Thanks to everyone who helped us bake it to one million today! We had a wonderful time at the bake sale, and we’re extremely pleased with the turnout.
“So many people came forward with baked goods, silent auction baskets, beautiful holiday items and live auction items. We can safely say we made $136,000, but the final numbers are not in yet. We thank everyone who helped in any way, large or small.”
Via Facebook, Landrum confirmed on Sunday evening the bake sale fundraising total was $136,000, handily surpassing organizers’ goal to “Bake It to 1 Million.”
“Thanks to all who helped us Bake It to One Million!! On Saturday, St. Joe gym was filled to the brim with delicious baked goods, beautiful Christmas wreaths, wonderful baskets and auction items, but most importantly, warm-hearted people with a spirit of love and good cheer,” she posted. “…Thanks for helping the hungry and happy Thanksgiving to all!”
“Thanks to everyone who helped us bake it to one million today! We had a wonderful time at the bake sale, and we’re extremely pleased with the turnout.” – Chris Landrum, chair, Help the Hungry Bake Sale Committee
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or email@example.com