PLAINFIELD — Cooking and baking have been passions for Donna Thoma since she was a girl. That love has continued through the years and she frequently contributes her skills and food offerings to events in the community and at St. Paul Parish.
She grew up in a farm family 6½ miles east of Holy Hill in southern Wisconsin and attended Catholic grade schools and high school. Her mother was ill for many years, and Thoma pitched in to help the family by cooking.
“I started cooking at the age of 5,” she says. “My mother would show me how. My dad was from a family of 15, and his sisters, my aunts, loved to cook. They would come down and visit us and cook. I just love to try new recipes. That was very fascinating for me.”
She and her husband, Philip J. Thoma, started their own auto and truck repair business. Thoma served as secretary for the business, as well as driving miles to pick up parts. Their five children also helped in the business and in cooking around the house. Time was hectic for the whole family.
“We needed to get away from our business,” she says. “We would come up here to the Plainfield area with the kids and camp in the summertime. It was a time for them that we could do things with them. And then we bought land up here. We have been coming up to the Plainfield area since 1969 and moved here in 2000. It was just a country setting, so quiet and peaceful.”
Since moving here, they have been members of St. Paul Parish. Thoma has continued to cook. She provided snacks for the religious education students for almost 10 years.
“The kids loved it and they never knew what kind of surprise I had for them,” she says. “I provided cookies, fruit, snack mix and more, and I did everything from scratch. I loved doing it and working with the kids. My husband would say to me, ‘Who had more fun — you or the kids?’ I think it was me. I enjoyed myself.”
She also makes breakfast bakes for the morning services on Wednesdays and Thursday, serves special breakfasts for birthday honorees and contributes to bake sales.
Philip J. Thoma, who died in January, was a member of the Lions Club for 30 years, and food events were frequent occurrences. Thoma always helped by volunteering her time and cooking skills.
“The wives of the group always did their dinner meetings, and we would cook for 90 people,” she says. “Since we’ve been up here in Plainfield, I would help him with the cooking if he worked at an event. We always worked together to make any event a success.”
For this year’s Knights of Columbus Tri-County Thresheree event, she helped at the Friday night fish fry and breakfast. “We’ve been doing that for years,” she says.
Because of her business background, Thoma also helps count the collection money for St. Paul Parish. “I volunteered,” she says. “I balanced out our business for 30 years or more, so this is just normal procedure for me.”
Thoma has 11 grandchildren, four girls and seven boys ranging in age from 4 to 29. This year, she became a great-grandmother to twin boys. Despite her busy work schedule, Thoma has stayed active with her volunteer activities.
“My husband sometimes asked me, ‘Why are you doing all that?’” Thoma says. “‘Because I enjoy doing that,’ I told him. He replied, ‘I see the enjoyment you get out of it, what it means when you can give to somebody else and they are so thrilled with it.’”
This really is what appeals to Thoma and serves as her ministry to the church. “To me, I can give something with my cooking,” she says. “It’s helping others and doing something that others maybe can’t do for themselves. Everybody has their talents, and that’s one of mine.”