Teachers sub for volunteer cooks, save pie fundraiser at St. Mary, Metamora

Rather than let go of the Thanksgiving pie fundraiser at St. Mary School in Metamora when pandemic restrictions meant volunteers were not allowed into the building, the faculty and staff pitched in to fill the 166 orders themselves on Nov. 24. (Provided photo)

METAMORA — When Catholic schools across the Diocese of Peoria closed to in-person instruction in November and switched to remote learning, it looked like the popular pie fundraiser for St. Mary School here would shut down, too.

The only people allowed in the school building were teachers and staff and that meant the volunteers lined up by chairman Ann Cowling could not help assemble and bake the 166 pies that had been ordered. The teachers weren’t willing to let it go, however.

Gary Henby receives the pies he ordered as part of St. Mary School’s pie fundraiser from Ann Cowling. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“A couple of the faculty said, ‘We can do it,’” said Cowling, who teaches art and coaches junior high volleyball, archery and softball at St. Mary. “I said, ‘OK, we’ll do it. If you guys are going to help me, we’ll do it.’”

On Nov. 24, every faculty member came to the kitchen ready to pitch in after their remote learning sessions were completed. Some had never baked pies before, but they learned quickly, Cowling said. Some made the dough, others rolled it out, while a few others filled the pies and oversaw the baking process.

They started at about 10:30 a.m. and were finished by 6:30 p.m. Cowling stayed to wait for the last few to finish baking and make sure the kitchen was clean.

“We had to wear masks and we had to social distance, but we do that every day anyway, so what’s the difference,” she said, as people started to drive up on Nov. 25 to retrieve the homemade desserts for their Thanksgiving meals.


Cherry is always the number one seller — this year they made 40 of them. Pumpkin pie, which was new to the list, came in second, followed by peach, rhubarb, apple and gooseberry for a total of 184 pies.

This is what 184 pies look like, lined up in the cafeteria of St. Mary School in Metamora and ready to go home on the day before Thanksgiving. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Cowling estimated that they would be able to give St. Mary School about $3,000 when all is said and done.

Much of what is needed for the baking is donated and the local supermarket gives the school deals on things like flour and sugar, she said. Noting that people are generous, Cowling shared that she once received $100 from someone who didn’t even take a pie.

Among those donating their time was Julie Harper, the school secretary. Not only did she make pie dough on Nov. 24, but she returned on Nov. 25 to help greet people and bring the pies they ordered to their cars.

“I just feel it’s important to help the school make money and this was a way to do it. I knew Ann couldn’t do it on her own,” she told The Post. “We just kept rolling them out. It was a lot of fun.”

“It’s great — just to wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving at such a time as this,” Cowling said. “There’s so much sadness. If we can bring a little joy to the families with these pies it’s worth it.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catholic Post is inviting readers to tell us about their Catholic school heroes of 2020. What teacher, principal, staff member, or parent has gone above and beyond in this most challenging year? We want to share their stories in our Catholic Schools Week section. Learn more here.


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