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It’s hot apple pie writ large

The sweet smell of cinnamon and apples filled the building as volunteers placed homemade pies into white boxes, piling them high towards the ceiling. Members of Gale Presbyterian Church in Elmira got together last week for their annual apple pie fundraiser.

Since 2005 the freshly made pies are part of annual fall tradition for the church to help offset costs such as the building’s mortgage, with the organization donating a portion back into the community when it can.

“We’ve raised over $199,000 in this fundraiser over the years. People wanted to work together, they wanted to accomplish something. You’ll notice we have a progress board over here we keep track of number of shells, number of boxes made – it’s kind of a competition between the two and people enjoy it,” said Lee Coulman, a volunteer with the church.

Melanie Dow, coordinator of the fundraiser, said the group made a total of 1,440 pies in three days. She saw volunteers as young as 3 years of age picking apples.

“Last year was our biggest, we did 1,512 pies. It ranges based on what our orders are, and the number of volunteers we have. We have people asking us for pies from all over the place; we have people delivering them to Cambridge, Wingham gets a bunch – they go everywhere these pies. People are asking for them.”

A woman who used to attend a church in Paisley brought the unique apple pie recipe to the congregation 16 years ago. It uses simple ingredients and a hardy pastry. It was popular, leading to the idea to use the recipe as a fundraiser when the Gale community was looking to build a new church on Barnswallow Drive to replace the Cross Street building.

“That’s how it started and that was our original fundraiser when we were looking at moving – so the first year they raised something like $4,000, and it kept going up from there,” said Coulman. “I don’t think anybody thought it would be this big of a fundraiser and it would go this long – not just for the pies, but to be able to work together.”

Dow noted the large space at Gale’s current location has made it easier to do fundraisers like this during the pandemic, maintaining public health guidelines along the way.

“Before at the old church we were in just a small little basement so we could only make so much in the space, but I think now that we’re a large size, we have the capacity to do it. I think people feel more comfortable coming in a large space, as well, especially with everything going on right now.”

As with last year, pandemic protocols see the pies being given out at the front entrance of the church instead of in the back where the pie production was happening. Dow said she misses seeing people’s faces as they watched the volunteers’ streamlined process of making pies and breathed in the smell of the apples being peeled.

“’Here’s a fresh pie that literally was made five minutes ago that you’re taking home now’ – I think they were just in awe of that stuff,” said Dow.

A variety of apples go into baking the pies, with Dow suggesting the hardier apples were better.

“If you want to get sticky, you’re doing the apple peeling and you’re doing the mixing. If you like the dough stuff and keeping a little drier, then you’re doing that stuff. It’s a neat production, how it works. Boxes and shells for day one, two and three. Next will be apple peeling and then it goes to mixing the apples with our mix inside, we’re making more pastry tops still, and then we fill the shell bottoms, put the tops on, crimp them, bag them, box them, then out the door,” she explained of the process.

Everything is made fresh from scratch in advance of last weekend’s pickup. More details can be found at the Gale Presbyterian website, www.galepresbyterian.com.

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