A few of the moms from the St. Peter’s School Home and School Association in Delano, Minn., invite you to sit in their kitchen and chat over homemade cookies. Or perhaps you’d like some pasta or a turkey dinner instead? Just be careful not to drool on their prep tables while you’re trying to decide.
Called Ladies in the Kitchen on a Mission and operating from their church’s basement kitchen, these gals are the feeding arm of the HSA. According to Bev Ludwig, HSA president and one of the five core Ladies, her group’s cooking does much more than satisfy bellies and expand a few waistlines at the school.
“Our events give us a great opportunity to reach out to families, bring them together and make them feel like part of the community,” she says. “Once families experience this community spirit, they become more invested in the school.”
Before the school year begins, the Ladies host an off-site mentor barbecue to connect new kindergartners and their families with 4th grade “buddies.” In the spring, the group holds a dinner for incoming kindergarten students. On the first Friday of every month, they serve up a continental breakfast during which students sit and talk with parishioners after Mass. On election night, the Ladies transform their kitchen into an Italian café; voters sit down for a baked mostaccioli dinner and assorted desserts. And each spring, they serve families a meal to accompany the school’s musical theater production.
One of the most anticipated days at St. Peter’s is the annual grandparents day lunch celebration. But none of the 250 students and their guests has to brown-bag it—the Ladies provide a full turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the other fixings. “There is also an opportunity for grandparents to go into their grandchildren’s rooms for activities,” Ludwig adds, “and the big finale is a special presentation of the Christmas program just for the grandparents.”
Students in good academic standing are allowed to cruise by the kitchen for a treat on Reward Day. There are also birthday celebrations several times a year; honorees get to make their own ice cream sundaes to celebrate. And for the teachers, who Ludwig says don’t get the chance to socialize at school, the Ladies prepare an elegant dinner each year.
For the record, Ludwig notes, “We do have dads that help at events, serve on other committees, and are very involved.” But in this circa 1950s, industrial stainless steel kitchen, it’s pretty much a Ladies world.
“We have cooked our way this far and will continue to do what it takes to help our school thrive,” Ludwig says. “We feel family is the heart of our school, and that is where we will focus.”
The Group: St. Peter’s School Home and School Association, Delano, Minn.
School size: 96 students, grades K-6
Annual earnings: $2,500
Fundraisers: One—the annual Christmas cookie sale, which pays for teacher wish lists, school events, and group marketing
Philosophy: The HSA strives to encourage parent involvement in the school and to foster friendships among the school, families, and the community.
Christmas Cookie Sale: An annual fundraiser with nearly 30 different kinds of baked treats
Shake and bake: Each year, the Ladies in the Kitchen on a Mission hold a Christmas cookie sale, the HSA’s only fundraiser. (A separate committee raises additional funds for the school.) Profits from the event typically reach $2,500.
The way the cookie crumbles: A few weeks before Christmas, Ludwig’s core group of five moms picks about two dozen favorite recipes. The ladies then purchase more than 250 pounds of ingredients for the cookies, at a cost of about $400. Then, says Ludwig, “We bake and bake and bake.”
Cookie rookies: Last year, Ludwig recalls, the Ladies had a few extra hands in the kitchen. “Some of the kids came down after school to help with the cookie cutters and with decorating, and we were done in a few hours,” she says.
Sweet stash: At the end of their weeklong “baking marathon,” the entire community is welcomed into the kitchen to shop for holiday delectables, including homemade fudge, peanut blossoms, and Russian tea cakes. “When it is all said and done,” Ludwig says, “we bake over 6,000 cookies and fund many of the needed programs for our school.”