By CARL E. FEATHER - email@example.com
On a typical Friday in January and February, the volunteer fire hall receives dozens of calls between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. Rarely do they deal with fires or accidents, however.
No, these emergencies are of the culinary, end-of-the-week kind: A mom too tired to make dinner after a long day at work, a group of teenagers holding a movie night in the living room or a resident who simply wants to help the Pierpont Volunteer Fire Department earn money for that next piece of equipment.
It takes a crew of a dozen or so volunteers to solve these issues in a fire hall transformed into a pizza parlor. Aside from the grocery store on Route 7, there are no pizza outlets in the community. For eight Fridays or so every winter, the fire department fills the void and raises some cash in the process.
“I think that when we get snow, that seems to help sales,” says Jody Anthony, who coordinates the fundraiser. “People don’t want to go anywhere.”
Volunteers make between 70 and 80 12-inch pizzas every Friday evening during Pierpont’s “pizza season” in January and February. The last Friday for the pizza sales is March 1.
Firefighter Norm Woodard says it is mainly the residents of Monroe, Pierpont, Denmark and Richmond townships who support the effort. Last year’s pizza sales raised about $2,100 for the department, enough money to fill the department’s diesel fuel tank three times, Woodard observes. It takes two shifts of at least four volunteers each to literally raise that dough.
Helen Mallory starts the process at noon on Friday when she dumps two 25-pound bags of flour into the commercial mixer along with the yeast, water and a few other ingredients that go into the dough. Mallory follows a government recipe that she first adopted years ago when she worked as the cook at Pierpont Elementary School. The dough is cut into “dough babies,” which, after rising, are worked onto the baking pans and pre-baked to help expedite the process once the phone starts ringing.
Jody Anthony takes the phone orders, then passes them off to an assembly line, where volunteers add the sauce and toppings: extra cheese, garlic, broccoli, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, onions and banana peppers. A loaded pizza goes for $15; a plain cheese one starts at $7 with each item costing a dollar.
Lu Donna bakes the pizzas to perfection. Donna, who has 35 years of experience in the pizza business, says the thing that impresses her most about the fire department’s pizzas is the quantity of toppings they pile onto each pie.
“We don’t skimp on the toppings,” Anthony confirms.
Mona Georgia, whose husband Jeff and daughter Jennifer were working the assembly line, purchased three pizzas for dinner and planned to eat any leftovers for breakfast. A mailman, she walks nine miles a day, so a hot pizza is a welcome way to end the shift. Georgia says there is simply no commercial product that compares to the fire department’s pizzas, which have that “homemade” quality to them.
The idea of selling homemade pizza originated with Jan Brockett, who started the project on Fridays and Saturdays in the winter of 1993. The two-day project soon became a burden and it was pared back to Fridays only. After Brockett left the department, others stepped up to the mixer and oven to keep the project alive. Mallory says Wanda Williams was a mainstay in the dough department until her retail business near the fire hall required her to take a hiatus.
Others have stepped in to make up for the loss of experience.
“Everybody has a job that they really like to do,” Mallory says.
Cheryl Cork, for example, folds the cardboard boxes. She says her grandparents, father and other family members were department volunteers and she enjoys having a role in the project. Others, like Cyndi Loveridge, like to get their gloved hands in the dough. For Mallory and Loveridge, it’s déja vu — both of them worked in the kitchen at Pierpont Elementary before it closed.
Anthony says the department takes orders from 4 to 7 p.m. (the number is 577-1190). Pizzas are usually ready for pickup 20 minutes after ordering. The department also will make up “take and bake” pizzas, which are discounted by $1; the customer bakes the pie at his convenience.
Mallory points out that to ensure the quality of every pizza that leaves the shop, the volunteers do rigorous “quality control” tasting of pies topped with their favorite toppings.
The pizza sale is just one of many fundraisers the department does throughout the year to ensure residents will have the protection they have come to expect. Other projects include the Pioneer Picnic, Trevor Vines’ TV Land and raffles.
“And we always take donations,” Mallory said.