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Teen fills a need with Thanksgiving pies

  • Kati Hilario, right, and her mother, Lisa Ann Hilario, work on baking 75 pumpkin pies at the Fountaingrove Inn's kitchen, in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, November 26, 2013. Kati Hilario, a 14-year-old freshman at Maria Carrillo, is selling the pies to raise money for the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

At 14, Kati Hilario looked somehow dwarfed amid the oversized stainless steel appliances and cookware in the spacious hotel kitchen she borrowed Tuesday to make Thanksgiving pumpkin pies.

Her bright T-shirt, running shoes and polka-dot apron seemed out of place in the kind of setting where traditional culinary attire would be expected.

But Hilario was on a mission, her outsized ambition to make a dent in world hunger forcing her slightly beyond her comfort zone as a suburban high school student.

Kati Hilario

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Kati had 75 pies to bake, all ordered ahead and expected in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Now in her third year of making the traditional holiday desserts to raise funds for some of the tens of thousands served each year by the Redwood Empire Food Bank, she knows how satisfying it's going to feel to turn over the money she has collected to provide food for those in need.

Heck, she's already mulling ideas for boosting her output and donations next year.

"It's so much fun, because just handing over the check, you can see his face, just so happy," she said of her food bank contact, Billy Bartz. "... and seeing that I'm actually making a change and they can buy so much more food that way."

The Maria Carrillo High School freshman hopes to contribute about $1,100 this year to the regional food bank, though she still has to add up all her expenses and total donation amounts.

In addition to the $15 she receives for each pie, some folks just donate directly to the cause. Last year she gave $945 to the food bank after baking 52 pies. The first year she made 16 pies and donated $362.

"It's so rare that young people feel empowered to step up and make a difference," said Bartz, food drive and events coordinator for the food bank. "And what she's doing is really making a difference.


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