The ingredients required for a happy Thanksgiving: 8 bushels of apples, 25 gallons of pumpkin purée, 150 pounds of flour, 25 volunteers and a whole lot of kindness.
That recipe evolved from the ambition of one little girl, who for the past 13 years has made it her mission to ensure that everyone has plenty of dessert to eat on Thanksgiving.
Back when she was 4 or 5 years old, Baleigh Payne volunteered at Northeast Parent and Child Society with her father, Bob. The organization works to protect children, preserve families and strengthen local communities. When children being housed by the society told Baleigh they were allowed to have only one piece of pie with their Thanksgiving dinner, she didn’t think it was right.
“We come from families where we have pie, we have food. Just going there and seeing how they didn’t, it was kind of just like, wow,” said a now-nearly-grown-up Baleigh, who was making pie crust Sunday morning in the kitchen at Glen Sanders Mansion.
Now 17, she recalled how, with the help of her dad, she set out to help ensure there was enough Thanksgiving pie to go around in the community.
Her “Easy as Pie” Thanksgiving pie-making effort started with about 15 people making 25 or 30 pies. Over the years, it has grown to an endeavor that churns out close to 500 pies, which all go to local organizations that provide Thanksgiving meals for the needy. All of the ingredients are donated and all of the piemakers are volunteers.
Girls from Niskayuna Girl Scout Troop 2383 of Iroquois Middle School were peeling apples in the kitchen at Glen Sanders Sunday morning. Tierney Ellis, 13, said she had never made a pie before.
“I’ve never peeled anything in my entire life,” chimed in 13-year-old Jillian Margolies.
It was chilly in the kitchen and the girls’ hands were numb from working with the icy apples, but it was clear they were proud of what they had learned and that they were part of a project that brings joy to the community.
“Now I might make pies for Thanksgiving, now that I know how to make them,” Jillian said.
Bob Payne, a culinary instructor at Schenectady County Community College, coordinates the pie-making effort and makes sure to remind the young volunteers why the project is so important.
“It’s about giving back to people in need, remembering what you have and what you can do,” he explained.
Denise Murphy McGraw, chairwoman of SCCC’s board of trustees, said the project also gives students a great opportunity to be in the middle of the action in a working kitchen and to see what a career in culinary arts could be like.
Culinary arts students from SCCC lent a hand to the pie-making effort, and volunteers from the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, where Baleigh is a senior, also helped out.
“We have a great time doing it,” said 17-year-old Holy Names student Danielle Palmiotto as she pounded pie crust into round discs. “It’s for a great cause, so we all enjoy doing it.”