When the dear and dynamic Pam Carr moved to Pennsylvania in 1999 after several very active years at All Souls, she sent back to Renee a recipe her church there was using to make cream-filled chocolate covered Easter eggs for fundraising. That's how it started. ASSIST-JC was just getting off the ground, really, and Pam knew we needed ways to generate income for this growing ministry—a ministry in which more than 400 have participated in the years since.
So on Friday when I made my way through Sams Club to buy the first 250 pounds of confectioner's sugar, 27 pounds of cream cheese, 54 pounds of peanut butter, and a gazillion latex gloves….and Walmart to buy 32 # of Margarine, 5 # of coconut flakes, the first 3,500 plastic bags and the first 1,500 cupcake holders, I was used to the comments and questions of curious fellow-shoppers: "Gonna do a bit of baking, eh?" "Wow! Looks like you're about to go crazy in the kitchen!" And I was used to explaining that dozens and dozens AND DOZENS of teens and their families would be making around 7,000 cream-filled eggs to sell during Lent to support our mission program.
Renee and I were laughing about what the price per egg would have to be if we figured in labor costs at minimum wage and believe me, it would be a lot higher than $1.00! Anyone who has seen the beehive of activity during the 4-day stretch of an egg-making weekend knows what I mean. Until about 5 years ago, we made the filling over at the Friars' Bakehouse where we would crowd around their two giant bread mixers –and where we had to remove the layer of fine powdered-sugar dust from all their dining tables before we left. When the Friars upgraded their machinery and offered to sell us one of those machines, we weighed the convenience of being able to mix the filling in-house on our own schedule and decided to acquire our very own machine-- with a steel bowl big enough to give a toddler a bath in! (It's been put to good use making bread for various ASSIST-JC dinners, as well.)
So now, we begin an egg-production weekend on Wednesday afternoon when Renee gathers a handful of helpers in the vestry kitchen to mix up 3-4 of the giant batches of filling, usually starting with the peanut butter since that's hands-down our biggest seller. Another crew mixes the remaining batches Thursday afternoon while yet another larger team starts scooping the filling (trying for portion control!!) and shaping it by hand into somewhat-egg-shaped little ovals which get chilled in the fridges throughout the church. On Friday morning, the chocolate melting and dipping begins up in Room C where mostly adults come and go from noon til 8 or 9 pm. Meanwhile, down in the vestry, teams are putting the dipped and chilled eggs into bags, tying them up with color-coded yarn, and packing them in cartons for cold storage. And all of that continues all day on Saturday. And then, of course, we have to clean things up and remove the evidence (except for inventory!) of all the craziness. It's a pretty impressive operation, really, and a tremendous amount of team-building takes place through-out, a key aspect of preparation for a successful mission trip in June.
When February arrives, past customers from their workplaces start asking All Souls adults "When are the eggs coming?" and we tell them sales start on Ash Wednesday—and sometimes we even explain to them the concept of the church season of Lent. (Of course, it can be a bit embarrassing to explain that we hope they will indulge in our tasty treats during a religious season devoted to self-denial and self-reflection!! But mostly, that's an "insider" joke.)
By the end of the four production days, we typically have about 3500 eggs ready for sale –and we do it all again a month later to restock. Each person going on that year's trip is obliged to sell at least 100 eggs and many other church members from past trips continue to help us supply eager customers throughout the Greater Bangor area—help for which we are very greatful.
So don’t be surprised if you smell peanut butter or peppermint or coconut or raspberry or chocolate if you're in All Souls from the 3rd to the 7th of February (or of March)—and now you know why!