‘Making a difference’: North Star students continue pie-making tradition for Amherst Survival Center’s Thanksgiving feast

  • Solena Davidson Carroll, 15, a student at North Star, makes pumpkin pie filling for the Amherst Survival Center Thanksgiving Day dinner. Other students work behind her to make the pie crusts. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Students Gaelen Fogarty and Sophie Hinkle, front, along with Loran Saito, the North Star program director, make crusts for pies that will be served at the Amherst Survival Center’s Thanksgiving Day dinner. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Solena Davidson Carroll, a student at North Star, makes pumpkin pie filling for the Amherst Survival Center’s Thanksgiving Day dinner. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2021 8:29:12 PM
Modified: 11/23/2021 8:28:57 PM

AMHERST — Surrounding the counter in the middle of the Amherst Survival Center kitchen, three teenagers knead and roll homemade dough before forming crusts that will hold apple and pumpkin filling.

Across the room on this late Tuesday afternoon, two other teenagers are mixing the pumpkin concoction that will be poured into some of the crusts.

Joined by Loran Saito, program director at North Star: Self Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, the teenagers are continuing a quarter-century tradition of preparing desserts for those who come to Wednesday’s Thanksgiving meal at the Survival Center.

“It’s really rewarding, but it’s fun,” says Sophie Hinkle, 14, of Northampton, a North Star student who volunteers at the Survival Center every Friday.

The 30 pies will be served as part of the meal that people can pick up between noon and 3 p.m. at the 138 Sunderland Road site.

“I’m glad to be here and making a difference in people’s lives,” said Priya McSweeney, 14, of Chesterfield. McSweeney said she likes baking so it made sense to participate in the activity.

Since 1996, North Star students have been an integral part of the Thanksgiving dinner, but they missed out on the opportunity in 2020 due to the pandemic and safety precautions.

“We’ve done this for 25 years, but had to do it last year with our families,” Saito said.

Returning this year, for the first time, the students could make the pies in the center’s kitchen, rather than in an Amherst home.

“It’s cool we get to be here,” said Solena Davidson Carroll, 15, of Montague Center. Carroll was among those who baked pies through an online class last year.

Enzo Belmonte, 14, of Turners Falls, said he had heard about the event and knew it was going on for a long time.

Saito said students at North Star look forward to volunteering and do other projects such as helping out with Grow Food Northampton.

“Hopefully we’ll be making someone’s day better with a pie,” said Gaelen Fogarty, 15, of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Survival Center Executive Director Lev Ben-Ezra said the pies are bound to be popular, alongside a variety of other desserts.

“We’re utterly delighted to have our fabulous partners here from North Star baking the delicious pies,” Ben-Ezra said.

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