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Sebastopol church's pies a labor of love

  • From left, Allie Kalemba, 11, Tyler Kalemba, 9, Genna Rocha, 8, and Theresa Weigel, 9, load pie shells with apples, cinnamon sugar and butter along the pie assembly line at Community Church of Sebastopol.

Congregational life at the Community Church of Sebastopol revolves around the usual mainstays of the Christian calendar: Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost, Lent, Easter and the like.

Then in August comes the observance that sets the church apart: apple pie days.

For three days each year at this time, the Gravenstein Highway church turns itself over to the making of pies — sometimes 2,000 of them — a volunteer effort involving scores of church members and supporters whose efforts raise about $12,000 a year to send kids to summer church camp.

Apple Pie Assembly Line

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Marked by the delivery of 50-pound cubes of Crisco shortening, huge sacks of sugar and flour, and peeled and cored Gravenstein apples by the barrel, the pie event brings generations of families together for what, over more than four decades, has become a well-orchestrated endeavor singular to the Sebastopol church.

“I grew up doing this 40 years ago,” said Karna Dawson, a small patch of flour visible above her lip as she cranked out flattened pie shells with a device much like an old-fashioned laundry wringer, “and my girls come here, and they love it.”

“It’s an amazing operation,” Marian McDonald said, seated with a handful of other slicers in a fellowship hall bustling with too many cooks to count.

Most of the pies made between 5 p.m. Thursday and 5 p.m. today will be sold at the Gravenstein Apple Fair. Now in its 41st year, the fair runs today and Sunday at Ragle Ranch Park.

But many of the pink-boxed pastries will be sold, as well, during drive-up sales at the church that permit passers-by to purchase them curbside, without even having to leave their cars.

It was directly from the church that the first pies were sold back in 1972, when the funds available to send those who wanted to attend Camp Cazadero fell short and someone figured out that 100 apple pies sold at $2 apiece would fill the need.

The pies were made in individual homes those first few years, but soon were coming out of the church kitchen as demand grew.


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