Bakeries cook up holiday cheer year-round

By | November 18, 2009

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Elaine Schmidt, left, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Kaukauna, who works at Hill Top Bakery in Kaukauna, donates bakery items to Emma Gloudeman and Lonnie Barron, volunteers at Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry located at St. Katharine Drexel Church. Hill Top is one of many local bakeries to donate goods to area food pantries and shelters. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

“We give to St. Joe’s Food Pantry. They come and pick up at the bakery every Tuesday and Thursday,” she said. “We also donate to Loaves & Fishes and the Salvation Army.”

The local Moose Lodge has an Easter meal and the bakery donates all the dinner rolls for that event. They also donate dinner rolls and pies for the Thanksgiving dinner at Monarch Gardens.

Last year during the holiday season, Simple Simon Bakery worked with St. Thomas More Parish on a cookie dough sale. Parishioners could buy tubs of cookie dough to donate to the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley. “They had 35 to 40 tubs of dough that went to the emergency shelter. People don’t always think of the emergency shelter as a place needing food, but they have a need also,” explained Ebert.

The food donated on a weekly basis is generally items that didn’t sell the day they were baked. “It’s so hard in our field. You have to have enough loaves of bread for 100 people but maybe only 50 people will come in that day for bread,” said Ebert. “We try to do it as tight as we can but if there is rain and snow, it makes a difference for your customer sales that day.”

The bakery also has a commitment to the Red Cross. If there is ever a catastrophe in the community, they will clear out their freezer to feed masses of people.

“Part of our mission here at the bakery is to serve the community at large. Our mission statement says that we are going to help serve in a Christian way of life and I believe if your mission statement says that, you better be doing what it says,” added Ebert.

Ebert credits her grandfather, Sylvester Simon, who founded Simple Simon Bakery, for instilling his values into the family business. His sons Rick and Bill followed his example when they took over the business.

“What else are you going to do? If there’s a need, you just do it. That’s the way we’ve always done it,” noted Ebert.

Lynn Engel, of St. Mary Parish in Appleton, co-owns Hill Top Bakery in Kaukauna with her husband Mark. Like their counterparts in Appleton, the Engels are more than happy to donate food to worthy causes.

“Alleluia Lutheran Church in Wrightstown does a pantry like once a month where they give away food for the poor and every Tuesday Loaves & Fishes (in Kaukauna) picks up, usually most of our day-old (goods) and lots of buns and bread from the freezers,” said Engel.

“It’s nice to help the people that can use it. I’ve got young people that work for us and I know how hard it is for them to make ends meet and if I can help somebody out with a loaf of bread, hey, that’s great.”

Donating is not only the mission for her bakery, but also reflects the mission of Engel’s parish. “Our parish’s motto is Time, Talent and Treasure. Our treasure is our bakery and our time is our labor making it so hopefully the people that get our product treasure it and send the good wishes back to us that we send them,” she explained.

Panera Bread has locations nationwide including bakery cafés in Appleton and Green Bay. As a corporation they are known for their generosity when it comes to donating food. Adam Slota, a member of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Green Bay, is the manager of the Appleton branch.

“Daily we donate breads, pastries, muffins and cookies – everything that we do not sell within a day that is fresh baked in our bakery café. The donation runs anywhere from $200 to $600. We donate to St. Vincent de Paul; we donate to Double Portion Soup Kitchen; we donate to the Red Cross and we donate to St. Joe’s Food Pantry at this particular time,” he said. “Every three months we try to switch it up. We try to get as much community involvement as possible.”

All 1,365 Panera Bread stores follow the company’s corporate mission and donate food to charitable organizations. But even if they didn’t, Slota said his branch would still donate their excess food. “Having the product left over, there’s no sense in having it discarded. Even at other places I’ve worked I’ve always called and tried to have people pick up any product that cannot be used.”

Being able to help people in this manner is very gratifying for Slota. “People are very appreciative of the gesture and the donations, especially the people that come and pick it up. They’re so thankful and they’re so nice. You just want to help them.”

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