Ethnic Bake Sale Raises $1,200 for Food Pantry

Wesleyan hosted an international bake sale in the Usdan University Center Nov. 20 to benefit the Middlesex United Way.

Wesleyan hosted an Ethnic Bake Sale in the Usdan University Center Nov. 20 to benefit the Amazing Grace Food Pantry. Wesleyan raised $1,200 from the sale. (Photos by Intisar Abioto '09)

Swedish sweet bread, Greek jam cookies, Iranian walnut puffs and Irish soda bread were just a few tasty treats sold recently to benefit a local food pantry.

On Nov. 20, Wesleyan hosted an ethnic bake sale in the Usdan University Center. More than 70 bakers and volunteers contributed to the event, helping to raise almost $1,200 in two and a half hours. All proceeds were given directly to Middletown’s Amazing Grace Food Pantry.

Hundreds of baked goods were for sale.

Hundreds of baked goods were for sale.

“It was so wonderful to see the Wesleyan community come together as one and see what we could do for the community during these tough economic times,” says bake sale organizer Olga Bookas, purchasing manager in the Finance Office. “I am so thankful so many people provided baked goods, but it was their enthusiasm that really made this event so amazing.”

Anastasia Chiu ’09 cooked Chinese red bean soup; Kris Truncali ’09 donated Belgian brownie waffles; Mary Glynn, application technology specialist, baked Irish soda bread; Ramesh Marhatta, a graduate student in physics, made Nepalese rice pudding; Gina Driscoll, associate director of development events, brought Italian tiramisu; and Ruth Huwel brought German crumb cake.

Carolyn Sorkin, director of international studies, brought pasta frola, an Argentine pastry of Italian origin.

Pastries represented more than a dozen countries.

Pastries represented more than a dozen countries.

“I participated in the bake sale for several reasons,” Sorkin says. “For one, I wanted to do my share for Amazing Grace because it is more essential than ever in these difficult economic times. Secondly, food is a basic element in any culture, and a good entry point to learning more about other societies. Also, the bake sale was a great way to bring the Wesleyan community together and start conversations about how we can help one another. And lastly, I have a sweet tooth approximately the size of Earth’s combined land mass.”

Cuisine from the United States also was represented at the bake sale with apple pie from Kathleen Norris, assistant to the dean of admission and financial aid; sour cream coffee cake from Stacy Baldwin, construction project coordinator; chocolate chip cookies from Laura McQueeney, administrative assistant; and vegan peanut butter treats from Leslie Chapman ’09.

Bookas, who brought Greek baklava and “the most delicious pastries one could taste,” came up with the idea to host an international bake sale at Wesleyan.

“During a campaign meeting, I asked if Wesleyan ever had an international bake sale before, and the answer was no,” Bookas recalls. “Frank Kuan (director of community relations and secretary of the university) asked me if I’d be willing to organize the sale, and I said, ‘of course.’ When there is a need for the needy I am always there. I love doing any work that can benefit the less fortunate members of our community.”

Local businesses Lino’s Market, A Taste of Italy, O’Rourke’s Diner and South Side Market also donated baked goods to the fundraiser.

The bake sale raised $1,200.

The bake sale raised $1,200.

The Ethnic Bake Sale Committee members were Driscoll; Kuan; McQueeney; Migdalia Pinkney, administrative assistant for the Center for Community Partnerships; Camille Parente, financial analyst/gallery coordinator; Anna Milardo, administrative assistant for the Physics Department and Christine Rodrigue, staff accountant.

Migdalia Pinkney made Puerto Rican sweet rice, coconut flan and bread pudding.

“The International bake sale brought friends and colleagues with cultural connections from all over the world to show that homelessness in an issue that not only affects all peoples but it takes all peoples to work towards ending it,” she says.

Bookas hopes the bake sale can become an annual event to raise money for other Middlesex United Way-funded agencies. She’s also entertaining the idea of organizing a book sale.

“I received many emails and phone calls from people at Wesleyan who thought it was a great idea to involve so many people and unite us as one,” Bookas says.