Volunteers gather at New Ipswich Congregational Church to aid St. Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving effort

  • From left, Tracy Tanner, Deb Fournier and Tatiana Hernandez prepare pumpkin pie filling at New Ipswich Congregational Church Thursday. —STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FONDA

  • From left, Tatiana Hernandez, Tracy Tanner and Deb Fournier work on pumpkin pies. —STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FONDA

  • Apple pies await completion so they can be baked. —STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FONDA

  • Henry Kustan, 7, slices the top of an apple pie crust. —STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FONDA

  • Suzanne Kustan puts apples in a pie crust. —STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FONDA

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/21/2022 2:30:19 PM
Modified: 11/21/2022 2:30:08 PM

As volunteers scooped out slices of apple and put them in pie crusts, Karyn Veeser encouraged them to use a lot, as plenty were available.

“Be generous,” she said.

The volunteers were in the Fellowship Hall of New Ipswich Congregational Church Thursday preparing pies for St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry’s Thanksgiving baskets. St. Vincent de Paul, located in Sacred Heart Parish in Greenville, put together and distributed the baskets Saturday.

Veeser is the coordinator of the church’s pie ministry, charged with preparing 100 pies – 30 pumpkin and 70 apple – over three days. She guessed that the church has been partnering with St. Vincent de Paul for close to 30 years.

At first, she said the church asked people to contribute pies, but when she became youth group leader, she taught members how to make pie crusts from scratch.

“I taught them my grandmother’s pie crust recipe,” she said.

The original request was for 35 pies, and the ante just went higher.

“We did 50, so now we’re going to do 75, now we’re going to do 100,” Veeser said, adding that the most they ever did in three days was 191. “It’s a really good feeling [to make the pies]. You’re exhausted, but it feels good to give.”

In the kitchen, Tracy Tanner, Deb Fournier and Tatiana Hernandez were preparing pumpkin pie filing, adding canned pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, spices and other ingredients to a large bowl and mixing them.

“I’ve been baking pies since I was 6,” Tanner said.

Hernandez, a senior at Mascenic Regional High School, was doing National Honor Society community service.

“I know Mrs. Veeser,” Hernandez said. “She was my middle school teacher in fifth grade.”

“Now you know how I’m getting the help,” Veeser said.

As she unrolled the tops of apple pie crusts (homemade crusts were a casualty of the increased demand),  Sally Zuar said she just started attending New Ipswich Congregational Church a few weeks ago.

“I heard about it at the church service,” she said.

When it came time to transfer the pumpkin pie mix to the crusts for cooking, Tanner and Fournier first put the crusts on the counter, filled them and moved them to the cookie sheet before putting the empty crusts on the sheet and ladling the mix directly into them.

“Trying to move it from there [pointing to the counter] to here filled wasn’t good,” Fournier said.

“Trail and error,” Hernandez responded.

The pumpkin pies were cooked at the church, but volunteers came to pick up apple pies for cooking at home. Shannon Michaud arrived with pies she had baked after Wednesday’s session and picked up more to take home.

“We’re loading up whatever’s left and going to bring them back,” she said.

Michaud said she has been helping for a couple years.

“It’s all these folks putting them together that goes a long way in the end. I have the easy part,” she said. “It’s fun stuff, a simple way to give back.”

As volunteers worked on the pies, they chatted, laughed and joked with each other.

“It’s so much enjoying everyone else while you’re here,” said Suzanne Kustan, the church’s director of outreach. “You know you’re helping other people, but it’s a side benefit.”

Kustan brought her 7-year-old son Henry, who used a small knife to slice ventilation holes in the apple pies, although Veeser had to advise him to keep his cuts small.

“Nostrils, not mouths,” she said.

A community effort

According to Veeser, this year was the first time St. Vincent de Paul donated all the ingredients. Kevin Little, the local president for St. Vincent de Paul, said more than 100 families had signed up for baskets.

“I think it’s just a sign of the times,” he said. “People are just having a tough time right now.”

Of New Ipswich Congregational Church’s efforts, Little said, “We’re just so grateful for what they’re doing. It’s really a great community event.”

All funds from the Friends of the Poor 5K walk and run Oct. 1 benefited t he food pantry, which also received donations from local farmers and businesses toward the Thanksgiving baskets. Souhegan Lions Club also had winter clothing available for people Saturday at Sacred Heart Parish.

“It’s been overwhelming, the response from the community, because we couldn’t do what we do without the help of the community,” Little said.


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