Dorothy Wiens (left), a member of the NOTL Lions Club, called on a few friends to help with a fundraising project to support minor sports in NOTL. The result was 160 homemade fruit pies, to sell from the Cornerstone Church parking lot on Niagara Stone Road this Thursday and Friday. Rolling out the pastry are Wiens, Luanne Kulchar, Kathy Dyck, Isolde Kroeker and Dori Wiens.
When six women gathered around the kitchen island in the home of Dori Wiens last Thursday, they were doing what comes naturally — helping their community.
When the friends see a need, they pitch in to do what they can. They’ve been doing that for years. Last week, they were making fruit pies, in response to a call for assistance from Dorothy Wiens, a member, with her husband Erwin, of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Lions Club,
Like so many organizations and service clubs, the Lions have been looking for new ways to fundraise during the pandemic, so they can continue to support their community. Wiens had decided a Thanksgiving pie sale could raise some money to allow the club to continue supporting minor sports for youth, including hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball and basketball.
“We’re a small little club, just trying to keep on doing what we’ve always done, supporting youth activities in our community,” says Dorothy.
The youth dances the Lions have sponsored for years have been cancelled because of COVID, as were this year’s Easter Bunny Sale, and the annual Virgil Firefighters car show and barbecue the Lions have assisted, making it important to come up with a safe alternative, she said.
So calling on her friends to help make pies seemed natural, and Dori Wiens’ large, recently-renovated kitchen, the obvious location.
Of the group assembling pies last Thursday, Dorothy was the only Lions member. Carole Wiens, Luanne Kulchar, Dori Wiens, Kathy Dyck and Isolde Kroeker are friends accustomed to working together, and the pie-making assembly line is nothing new to them, having made them for several years for Joe Pillitteri’s Terry Fox car wash and pie sale.
Working from the Tenderflake box pie crust recipe, the women completed 150 pies in one day, including peach, peach rhubarb and apple, with the addition of another 10 sovereign coronation grape pies by friend Agnes Wiens.
The Lions Club sale is this Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. from the parking lot at Cornerstone Church, and will offer 160 frozen, unbaked pies at $20 each, just in time for Thanksgiving.
“We’ll have people standing outside in the parking lot with buckets, and you order your pies and throw your money in the bucket,” says Dorothy.
Froese Farms and Mike Honsberger of Jordan donated the peaches. Mike and Sandy Perrault, who have a jam stand on Niagara Stone Road, donated the apples, Phil Leboudec of Phil’s valu-mart the flour, and Paolo Miele the shortening and eggs, says Dorothy.
Lions members helped slice the apples the night before, and most of the peaches had been sliced and frozen when they were harvested. “Otherwise, we couldn’t have done all this in a day,” she says.
Other members provided ingredients and supplies such as the aluminum pie plates, plastic bags and labels, making the fundraiser a true community effort to give back to the community, she added.
While the women who gathered to make the pies understand their goal is to raise money for the Lions and the community, they get just as much themselves out of the shared experience.
“Humans are meant to connect with each other,” says Dori, “and that’s been difficult recently. This is an opportunity for us to be together, and it’s been fun.”
Most of them are members of Cornerstone Community Church, accustomed to meeting regularly for outreach projects, such as quilting together and making pies for the annual New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, which was cancelled. Their weekly meetings, going back as far as 35 years for some of them, have also been cancelled.
An opportunity to get together to make pies, chat, pass on cooking and baking tips learned from their mothers, is also a time to share what is going on in their lives and families. They talk about recipes, but more important, about kids, grandkids, and especially, for some, the care of elderly parents through a pandemic. The ability to know they can lean on each other is very much appreciated.
“This is our support group,” says Kathy Dyck. “We have such history together.”
Dorothy laughs at being the one who has had to learn from scratch, referring to her friends as her mentors, teaching her how to make fruit platz, meat buns and other staples of Mennonite cooking. They’ve shared not only what was passed down by generations of women, but also how to adapt them to more modern methods to save time while retaining the same taste.
“We learn from each other as we go along,” says Dyck, as they discuss the need to adjust the quantity of fruit filling in the pies, based on whether it’s fresh or frozen.
While some of the methods have changed over the years, says Dori, “the camaraderie, the laugher, and sometimes the tears we share when we’re together, that hasn’t changed.”