Serving a community with holiday baking
By Jessica Sly
Baking is a holiday staple. It gets the family together, fills the home with delicious aromas and, of course, results in yummy and creative treats.
But as people in today’s world continue to get busier and busier, they don’t always have time to indulge in holiday baking.
This is why Bonnie Praska, a food service manager at Luther Crest Bible Camp in Alexandria, provides an alternative. Each winter, she devotes several weeks to baking Christmas goodies for Luther Crest’s Christmas bake sale. From cookies to candies, Praska provides ready-made treats that community members can purchase.
Having helped out in the program for more than 10 years, Praska now completes a majority of the holiday baking with Sue Jahnke, hospitality manager, but she appreciates the help she receives from other staff and volunteers.
Praska grew up in Fergus Falls, and after she got married, she lived in Fargo, North Dakota. In 1988, Praska and her husband moved their family to Alexandria, and it didn’t take long for her to find her way to Luther Crest and its bake sale offerings.
How did you get involved with Luther Crest?
I worked in the nursing home and at the school district before coming to Luther Crest in 1992. A friend told me of the part-time position that was open. It started as part-time position, and it has become a full-time food service manager position.
When did you begin baking for Luther Crest?
I believe it was around 2003 that the former food service manager thought it might be a good idea to start making Christmas cookies as a fundraiser. I personally thought it would never take off; was I ever mistaken.
How much of the baking do you do?
Sue and I make the majority of all the cookies, breads, pies and candies, but we do get much appreciated and needed help from other staff members and volunteers. Without them it wouldn’t be possible.
Why is the program important to people during the holidays?
People are busy with their jobs, families and just can’t find the time to do it. I do think some order just because they are supporting Luther Crest. I also order my cookies for Christmas from here. I just don’t find the time or desire to do any baking at home, which I think is why this has gone so well.
What sorts of baked goods do you make?
We make a variety of cookies, cream cheese cut-outs, chocolate cherries, thumbprints, spritz, plain and dipped, peanut blossoms, cranberry hootycreeks and everyone’s favorite, the monster cookie. We also do assorted breads, banana, pumpkin, cranberry orange nut and caramel rolls. Along with that, we do candies and make up four-dozen and two-and-a-half-dozen assorted trays.
About how many cookies do you think you bake a year?
I am guessing around 100,000 a year. We make about 25,000 just for the Christmas bake sale.
What do you enjoy about baking at Luther Crest?
I have always enjoyed baking at Christmas time, but doing it at Luther Crest is a lot more enjoyable because of the equipment we have, the space to spread out and having the other staff helping.
What are your other interests or hobbies?
In my spare time, I like to spend time with my family and friends. In the summer, we do a lot of camping. In the winter, we are kind of homebodies.
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Jessica Sly of Alexandria is a writer/proofreader and has a passion for art of all kinds, whether it be music, writing, drawing or Disney.