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Fighting fires with pies
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
When the Powder River Rural Fire Protection District has a bake sale, they sound a general alarm.
Every year, Harriet Gibson, the sale manager, calls all of the people who subscribe to the fire protection district. This adds up to nearly 80 phone calls. Then Gibson asks them for a pie, or cookies, or whatever homemade treat they would like to make.
On the opening day of the Sumpter Flea Market, volunteers set up a booth to sell pies, cookies, breads, cinnamon rolls, shortbreads, and a few cakes.
Gibson, Kathryn Kemp and Phyllis Schramm sat behind a table Friday spread with a red and white tablecloth, peddling a variety of baked goods as a fund-raiser for the fire district.
This bake sale is lucrative.
"We get enough to sell for two and a half days," which brought in over $2,500 last summer, Gibson said.
So far this summer, the Memorial Day sale made $970 and at Fourth of July the baked goods brought in $1,070.
"The ladies in the district bake their hearts out," Gibson said.
Pies sell for $10 each, or $2 for a slice. Ice cream can be added for an extra 50 cents. Root beer floats are priced at $1.50 and cookies are divided up at 50 cents a bag.
The booth also has a prime location Lorraine Wells donates a spot next to her business, Sumpter Valley Real Estate, on Mill Street.
Everything is wrapped up tight with plastic to keep out the dust. They also have a refrigerator that Gibson brings from home to store perishable pies, ice cream and root beer float fixings.
The women don't have to use persuasive methods to reel in customers; the aroma of warm apple pie sells itself.
The homebaked goods at this booth bring in regular patrons, usually as a first stop among the many vendors of crafts, clothes and food at the flea market.
"People who know us will come between 10 and 11 a.m. We mark it for them, then we save them (the goodies) till they're ready to go home," Gibson said.
While some may think a bake sale on this scale is a lot of work, these women still have a good time.
"It's kind of fun to watch the people coming and going," Schramm said.
Gibson said the reason this type of fund-raiser works is because it's for a strictly volunteer fire department. Many buyers leave their change after purchasing a pie, and even the bakers get into it.
Last year, Kemp made a lemon meringue pie for the sale, but when she had unexpected company that night, she turned around and paid for her own pie.
"Something like this sale really works in a rural area," Gibson said.
The fire district covers 10 square miles, and the subscription cost is $150 a year plus baked goods for the flea market booth.
"It helps with your insurance and helps with peace of mind," Gibson said.
Jack and Gerri Williams of Sumpter "rent" the fire station ground to the organization for a very reasonable fee $1 a year.
"It's a very beautiful spot. I don't know of a rural department on such a nice place," Kemp said, referring to the Mosquito Flat Fire Station near the junction of Hwy. 7 and the Sumpter Highway.
"The whole district lives on the subscriptions, fund-raisers and grants," Gibson said. "Our goal is to purchase the land.
"It's a very cooperative effort when you get out in the country like this," Gibson said.