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Synergy, camaraderie and rhubarb

Debbie King (left) and Alice Bubacz stir hot pots filled with cooking strawberry-rhubarb jam Tuesday at First United Methodist Church. The jam will be sold at CHUM’s Rhubarb Festival. (Photo by Bob King)1 / 4
Chopped rhubarb is mixed with sugar to create a pie filling. Most of the rhubarb comes from individual donations. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 4
Sarah Sapyta brushes a covered pie with milk before wrapping it. The pies are brushed with milk to ensure they brown properly in the oven when baked. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 4
Sarah Sapyta slices vents in the top of a rhubarb pie. She slices them in a T shape to signify that it is a “tart rhubarb” pie. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 4

CHUM’s Rhubarb Festival is over a week away, and there is plenty of work to be done. Volunteers are needed to chop rhubarb, roll out crusts and prepare pies.

On June 10, volunteers took over First United Methodist Church’s kitchen to make pies and prepare jam.

People volunteered for a variety of reasons, but mainly, “Number one, fun. Number two, for a great cause,” said volunteer LeAnn House.

“We don’t have a lot of money to donate right now, but I can always donate my time,” Kim Stossel said. “Plus it’s a chance to get out of the house.”

Stossel lives a few blocks away from First United Methodist, so she said it was easy for her to get there to volunteer. Some volunteers came from an hour away.

“I came from Solon Springs to help out. My friend Debbie said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go bake, want to come?’ said Barbara Pavcovich. “I said, ‘OK, I’m happy to do it.’”

Pavcovich was impressed with the number of people who came to help. “What a fun community to walk into! I feel very welcome,” she said as she rolled out a crust.

Some were a little wary of making the crusts, which can be a “troublesome task.”

“I had the very same problem. I was horrible at crusts,” Marlene Bowen said. “But after the first hundred, you’re a lot better.”

Or, you could find another job, like Bowen, who was mixing up the rhubarb and sugar for pie filling. Other batches of pies will include a strawberry-rhubarb mix.

It is important to tell if a pie is plain rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb, which can be difficult once it’s covered. Sarah Sapyta worked at the wrapping station, slicing vents in the the top crusts in the shape of a T.

“The T stands for ‘tart rhubarb,’” she said.

Other pies will be marked with other letters such as S for strawberry or R for raspberry. Before marking it, Sapyta brushed the pie with milk to ensure it browned properly in the oven, then sprinkled the top with a bit of sugar.

“There’s a camaraderie — a synergy that’s wonderful to be a part of,” said Jeff Merritt, who was chopping rhubarb. “CHUM provides so much and it’s great that we have this time to get together and bake.”

If you’d like to join in the camaraderie and synergy, there are several opportunities to help both before and at the June 28 festival. For a full list of opportunities visit www.chumduluth. org/rfsignup. Volunteers are also needed for a rhubarb harvest and chopping at the Peace Church, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E. on Saturday, June 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you have rhubarb you would like to donate to the festival, contact Jeff VanStratten at jeffvanstaaten@yahoo. com. If you would like to cut your own rhubarb and donate it, please cut it into half-inch pieces, freeze it and bring it to First United Methodist Church (Coppertop Church) at 230 E. Skyline Parkway. Starting Monday, June 23, rhubarb can be dropped off at First Lutheran Church, 1100 E. Superior St.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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