A group of dedicated volunteers at the St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School in Lorain, Ohio, is giving new meaning to team effort as they come together to produce 100,000 pierogi to bring in $50,000 to this school community.

The St. Anthony of Padua annual pierogi fundraiser was first held more than two decades ago and it has become the signature event for this Catholic school as parents, students, and teachers, as well as members of the parish and community, work tirelessly through the weeks leading up the fundraiser’s February kickoff. On a good day, teams of volunteers can produce upwards of 5,000 pierogi.

“It defines who we are,” says Andrea Miceli, president of the St. Anthony Parent Teacher Union. “People look forward to it every year.”

The fundraiser for this school of 260 students is now known throughout the northeastern Ohio region and gets it share of media coverage.

To pull off this feat of producing 100,000 fried dough dumplings, the PTU relies on a core group of about 40 volunteers that organize and manage the various aspects of scheduling, prepping, cooking, packaging, selling, and delivering. Then there are a few hundred volunteers who take shifts to prep the dough, prepare the fillings—potato, cheese, or sauerkraut—and then actually pinch the dough (a critical step) to create the dumplings. The prepping, cooking, and selling all take place at the school’s cafeteria.

“As a school, almost every single parent participates in some way,” Miceli says. “And the students help, too.”

Over the years, pierogi sales have funded field trips to Washington, D.C., for the higher grades at this elementary school. In addition, “It helps us with teacher wish lists, computer labs, building remodeling and random requests,” Miceli says.

In addition, a portion of the proceeds goes to the parish church.

The school sells the pierogi during Lent, the 40-day Christian season leading up to the Easter holiday. Selling takes place at the school on Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent. Pierogi are sold each subsequent Friday during Lent.

The fundraiser began modestly a few decades ago. As Miceli tells it, St. Anthony’s needed a fundraising idea to help pay for new computer lab, and “being a Polish kind of community, people knew how to make pierogi and so they did.”

The fundraiser was such a hit that parents figured it would be worth another try. Before long, St. Anthony’s had established a pierogi tradition. In recent years, it has grown beyond the original fundraiser, Miceli says. There is now a Pierogi Festival in June that the PTU runs. In addition to selling more pierogi, the event, which is open to the public, now involves a parade, a school mascot named Pierogi Pete, and the crowning of the PIerogi Royalty: a king, queen, prince, and princess.

But keeping this fundraiser on track requires tremendous effort and organization. The parent group has a Pierogi Production Schedule that spells out who needs to do what each day. Instructions are extremely detailed to help the process run smoothly. For example, if your job for the day is “onion chopper,” you are expected to pick up up 20 pounds of whole onions from the school before your scheduled production date and deliver them chopped (obviously, a food processor is recommended!) before 8 a.m. on production day.

Although the work shifts are run with a firm hand, they are often fun and have helped foster many friendships over the years. “It gets us through the winters,” Miceli says.

“Morning is prep time,” Miceli explains, “then we have mountains of dough that we cut down in the evenings. It’s fun, people come in and everyone shouts their name. Kids are there doing homework, older kids are helping out. Everyone gets to know each other and we have a big party at the end of it.”

Miceli admits that by the time pierogi season wraps, she has had her fill of dough, potatoes, cheese, and sauerkraut

“I get tired of them, but my kids don’t,” Miceli says. “People call for pierogi now throughout the year,” Miceli adds. “In special instances, we will ship out of state. Last year, someone ordered them for their wedding reception.”