Warning: What you’re about to read could cause you to become extremely … hungry.
You are requested to make crucial decisions regarding the purchase of breads, pies, cakes and cookies. Should you decide to accept this mission, report to the parish center of Lansing’s All Saints Church on Saturday, Nov. 22, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Masterminding this culinary plot are The Heavenly Bakers of All Saints, whose products are as enticing as their title. Marie Romano, for one, is well-armed for the event.
"I have two freezers full right now," she said Nov. 9. "Pumpkin bread, lemon-curd bread, coconut bread, strawberries and cream, cinnamon bread — I do a lot."
Romano, who once ran a baking business in her native Long Island, said she’s best known for her gingerbread houses, which will be unveiled at the Christmas sale on Dec. 20, a month after the Thanksgiving event. The Christmas sale also will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at All Saints, 347 Ridge Road.
Heavenly Bakers sales are held three times per year at the Tompkins County parish, whereas most bake sales are annual or one-time events. All the sales are timed to occur just prior to major holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — and are eagerly anticipated.
"We have some people call and ask, ‘Are you going to make a such-and-such cake? Put my name on it,’" Romano said.
"Maybe it will help some of the people who are so busy around these times of the year, so they don’t have to bake themselves," said Elsie Zifchock, who serves as a Heavenly Bakers organizer along with Romano and Anna Wagner. "In today’s world, the mothers are so busy they don’t have time."
All sale items are homemade; in fact, store-bought goods are discouraged.
"It comes from all the homes. Whatever you can do in your own home, bring," Zifchock said.
Donated items are typically dropped off at the parish center on the morning of the sale, a few hours before it begins. Merchandise generally moves quickly.
"They don’t know which to choose — a pie, a cake, buns, cookies. Last year I made two red raspberry/cherry pies," Zifchock said, adding that "what we have left over we usually sell at the coffee hour (after Sunday Mass) the next day."
An average Heavenly Bakers event brings in $350 to $450. Zifchock said she came up with the idea of having a bake sale a couple of years ago as a fundraiser for All Saints, which was then beginning construction of a new, larger church that opened in June 2007.
"We need new things for the altar — altar cloths and things like that. So far we’ve got some pretty nice things," she said.
Zifchock then enlisted Romano due to her vast baking experience.
"Marie was the one who came up with ‘Heavenly Bakers.’ I thought, ‘That’s it.’ When you take a bite of really delicious cake, you think, ‘Oh, this is good, this is heavenly,’" Zifchock said.
The time and expense put forth by Romano and Zifchock on these sales are part of a long history of volunteerism on their parts at All Saints. In the past they have filled such roles as teaching Sunday school, cleaning the church, and assisting at such social events as bingo and coffee hours.
Romano said she feels a strong obligation to support All Saints because for "so many years, when the church was little, we struggled. I think that’s what kept us together, all of those years we were a mission church."
In Romano’s case, her volunteer baking is not confined to the parish community. Her son, Capt. Robert Romano, is with the Army National Guard 27th Brigade based in Mattydale, near Syracuse. He has spent part of this year in Afghanistan, his first overseas tour after 26 years in the Guard. Romano makes plenty of cookies and candy that she ships out to her son as well as other brigade members.
"They tell me, ‘We really like the cookies, but we love the fudge,’" Romano said with a laugh.