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After 18 years, Help the Hungry Bake Sale still amazes

Auctioneer Mark Toti gives a “thumbs up” as Memorial United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Ron Beaton gets his cake properly situated on the table. At $22,000, the Rev. Beaton’s cake brought in the largest single bid this year during the Cooking Clergy Auction. Kevin R. Jenkins

Raises more than $125,000 at Saturday’s event

After 18 years of raising funds for two Farmington food pantries, the Help the Hungry Bake Sale is still going strong!

The crowd that turned out for the 18th Annual Help the Hungry Bake Sale filled the St. Joseph Catholic School gymnasium as it does every year. Kevin R. Jenkins

Not long after 8 a.m. Saturday, people were already standing in the serving line at St. Joseph Catholic School ordering breakfast items, as others were enjoying a tasty meal while enjoying a conversation with their tablemates. Meanwhile, volunteer workers scurried back and forth across the room, carrying dropped-off baked goods to be placed on tables placed throughout the gym for the sale.

At 8:50 a.m., a line began to form outside the doors as anxious customers prepared to make a quick dash to the tables filled with holiday goodies, holiday gift items, and silent auction gift baskets. Once 9 a.m. arrived, the line began to move at a steady pace into the gymnasium as the bake sale volunteers prepared to spend the next several hours assisting their customers.

It was an amazing sight to see so many people walk around the crowded gym while grabbing goodies and talking with friends, all while keeping a jovial Christmas spirit throughout the event, which is one of the most popular and profitable fundraisers that takes place each year in the Parkland.

Strolling around the gymnasium was Rich Luebcke of Farmington, who was wearing a big smile while carrying a larger apple pie in his hands.

After saying that he’d attended the bake sale “several times” over the years, Luebcke was asked why he and his wife had become frequent visitors to the event.

“Apple pie!” he said with a smile while admitting that he planned to eat the pie all by himself. “I enjoy a good apple pie. It’s really pretty simple. It started years ago when I was busy at my church, and I had to put up linens on a really tall cross. The head of the altar guild bribed me with an apple pie every time I did it, so I became addicted.”

In addition to feeding his sweet tooth, Luebcke was pleased with the way the money raised at the bake sale goes to support the efforts of Farmington’s two independent food pantries operated by the Farmington Ministerial Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul.

“I think the money is well spent,” he said. “It’s very important to support those who don’t have, and those two organizations do an excellent job.”

Asked if he had anything else to say, Luebcke smiled and said, “I can’t wait to warm up my pie and eat it!”

Another regular attendee making his way around the gymnasium was Harvey Faircloth, whose wife, Mary Lee, is a long-time bake sale volunteer.

“Right now, she’s in charge of the kids that are taking all of the donations coming in and directing them,” he said.

When asked why he and his wife have continued to support the bake sale through the years, Faircloth said, “I guess maybe because we’re very blessed and fortunate to have what we have, and we know not everyone’s that way. We like to give back if we can.

And what about the crowd?

Faircloth laughed and said, “I think you’d better be careful where you step, or you might get run over!”

Jessica Cook has been a Help the Hungry Bake Sale volunteer for as long as anyone could possibly have been a volunteer at the event.

“Well, the bake sale has been around 18 years, so probably about 18 times,” she said, grinning. “I come back every year because it’s a great cause, I love seeing the community come together and support such a great cause.”

Finding a moment to interview local radio personality Mark Toti during the bake sale isn’t an easy thing to do. As auctioneer and emcee for the event, he rarely has a moment to take a breath, much less answer a series of questions. Still, Toti was willing to take a few minutes to talk about his involvement with the Help the Hungry Bake Sale through the years.

“I’ve worked all of them,” he said. “Eighteen years ago, Chris Landrum came up to me and said, ‘Would you be interested in being an auctioneer?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve never been an auctioneer for anything.’ She goes, ‘We think you’ll do great,’ and I guess I did because they keep bringing me back.”

“I love it. First of all, I want to thank the committee for letting me be a part of it. Secondly, I think the work they do is awesome, and the need is definitely great. I think, also, that the community responds to this as well. They understand that there are people out there who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and this is their way of helping out. I love being a part of this, and I love the crowd.”

Only a few hours after the end of the sale, Chris Landrum, event founder and chairperson of the Help The Hungry Bake Sale Committee, was ecstatic about everything that had occurred earlier in the day.

Almost all of the seats at Saturday’s Help the Hungry Bake Sale auction were taken 30 minutes prior to its start. Local radio personality Mark Toti was once again the auctioneer, a job he took on 18 years ago at the first bake sale. Kevin R. Jenkins

“I don’t know how it could have been any better,” she said. I felt like we had such a wonderful supply of baked goods, and we had beautiful items in the holiday raffle. There were so many silent auction baskets — we wouldn’t have had room to squeeze one more in. And then the live auction was so carefully curated. They had such a wonderful selection. I felt like we had just the best for our customers. And then when 9 o’clock happened, and people started coming in the doors, they just kept coming and coming and coming. It was just such a wonderful thing to see everybody flood in.

“There was just a really good feeling. I talked to some people, and they had gotten their baked goods, got them paid for and put them in their car. Then they’re like, ‘OK, now I’m going back in to visit with everybody.’ That’s such a part of the bake sale that people anticipate and like to participate in. It’s truly a great time. I love seeing the little groups that kind of form where people are just talking.”

Both the emotional highpoint and climax of the Help the Hungry Bake Sale is the Cooking Clergy Auction.

“As always, that’s a high point of the entire day,” she said. “I’m always so thankful that the pastors get as involved as they do and get their congregations involved. We raised just under $60,000 that we raised in the Cooking Clergy Auction this year.”

And the total amount raised through this year’s various Help the Hungry events to support the food pantries is impressive.

“We are at $126,000 right now,” Landrum said, “and we’re hoping to still get in some more.”

The presentation of checks to the Ministerial Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul food pantries will take place in the early part of next year.

Kevin R. Jenkins is the editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 


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