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Chicken pies for progress

Annual Wauka Mountain tradition raises money for school improvements

POSTED: February 21, 2010 12:30 a.m.
TOM REED /The Times

Paula Puckett prepares to start picking chicken from a tray of cooked pieces Saturday at Wauka Mountain Elementary School. The chicken will be used for the school's annual Chicken Pie Supper next Saturday.

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In 1925, Brookton Elementary School raised $63 selling homemade chicken pies that they carted to the school in washtubs and sold in order to build a much-needed road.

Eighty-five years and thousands of pies later, the Chicken Pie Supper is still held at Wauka Mountain Elementary, the school's successor, and has become the largest and most anticipated fundraiser of the year.

After more than 250 volunteers helped raise $7,000 at last year's event, the school was able to give its rusty playground equipment an upgrade.

This year, the school hopes to dole out enough helpings of pie to take the edge off the costs of adding new classes in the next school year.

"We're getting ready to open as a charter school and we'll be offering specialty classes twice a day," said Principal Jo Danin.

Plans are already underway to construct a kitchen for a new culinary arts program, one of the nearly two dozen new classes to be offered to students. The school's PTO plans to help fund the school's arts program and a golf class that would incorporate math lessons into teaching children the fundamentals of the sport.

Students could also take lessons in digital photography, sign language, podcasting and soccer, among others. But whether there will be enough money to purchase supplies for each is in part determined by how many people will flock to Saturday's Chicken Pie Supper.

More than 300 volunteers started working Saturday on picking and preparing the some 2,500 pounds of poultry that has been donated and purchased for the event. They will bake 365 pies, some starting to work at dawn today.

It's enough chicken to feed 4,000 hungry mouths, which could yield tens of thousands of dollars in profit, according to PTO president Denise Deal.

"It takes every volunteer we can scavenge," Deal said.

More than a fundraiser, the Chicken Pie Supper has become a family tradition and a Gainesville staple. Deal's husband was a student at the school and remembers his own parents helping out at the event, she said.

What separates chicken pies from other pastry and poultry dishes is that they nix the vegetables of traditional pot pies and fill them with dumpling-like dough.

To attract younger palettes, they will also serve chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. Local folk artist Chris LeWallen is donating his talents as well. Some of the Gainesville painter's work will be used as prints on T-shirts sold at the event.

The state board of education will officially approve the school's charter status some time in March, offering the school room to branch out subjects, Deal said.

"It gives teachers and staff more flexibility to give more enrichment (to students)," she said. "The main thing is it takes the way children learn into account, helps them learn through those programs."

Tickets for the Chicken Supper are available online at www.chickenpiesupper.com ($8 for adults and $5 for children). If one helping is not enough, whole pies can be purchased for preorder online for $20.



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