Pies for Prevention mixes dough with donations
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Pies for Prevention mixes dough with donations

Sisters honor mother, grandmother through baking project for Sharsheret

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Sisters Adeena Sussman, left, and Sharon Wieder with some of their pies.

It’s a win-win venture.

Wonderful pies for Thanksgiving and a built-in donation to a worthy cause. And, say sisters Sharon Wieder and Adeena Sussman, an appropriate way to honor their late mother and grandmother.

“We do all the baking in my kitchen in Teaneck,” said Ms. Wieder, co-founder with her sister of Pies for Prevention. Now coordinating 18 bake sales in communities around the country and in Jerusalem, Ms. Wieder said the six-year-old project began with two sales, her own, and one run by a woman in Long Island who wanted to help Sharsheret. All the proceeds benefit that organization’s ovarian cancer support and education program.

Sharsheret is a Teaneck-based group founded in 2001 that assists and provides resources for young Jewish women who face breast cancer, and their families as well. With help from Ms. Wieder and Ms. Sussman, they also have been expanding their resources for ovarian cancer.

The pie program began in 2009, said Ms. Wieder, who is a breast cancer survivor.

“I used Sharsheret,” she said. “They have amazing links and programs.”

She said that her mother had been diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2003. She died in February 2006 “after a valiant struggle. She was very young and quite special.” Her grandmother died of the same disease in August 2009.

“My sister and I, following the example of my mother – an incredible optimist – decided to harness that energy and do something. My mother was a balabusta, always cooking. My sister is a chef, I’m a dietitian, and we grew up helping my mother cook and [observing] her graciousness as a host.

“I wanted to do something to give back to Sharsheret. They had been doing work on breast cancer, and I wanted them to focus more on ovarian cancer.”

Now it is, she said. Among other efforts, this summer Sharsheret will hire a summer intern to work specifically on that area.

“Our fundraising has been in direct support of that,” she said. “I’m excited that Sharsheret will use the money toward that.”

Ms. Wieder, who has a 17-year-old daughter and twin 15-year-old sons, has lived in Teaneck for more than 16 years.

“Our family always celebrated Thanksgiving,” she said, pointing out that she picked that holiday for the fundraising effort “so we wouldn’t compete with other charities, which have programs for Sukkot or Shavuot. I hadn’t seen anything for Thanksgiving.”

She said that she and her sister, who lives in New York but is “an honorary Teaneck resident and a full partner in the program,” do all the baking for the Teaneck and New York City sales. While they coordinate all the sales done under their banner, helping with recipes and timelines, each city has its own baker, or bakers, who decide what to bake and what to charge.

“All the bakers supply all the ingredients,” she said, noting that customers have the option to order, give a gift, or sponsor a baker. “The bakers pay for the ingredients and boxes,” she said. “Sharsheret provides stickers and thank-you notes.” The customers pick up their own pies before the holiday.

Many of the bakers are friends, although this year, after Sharsheret sent out promotional materials for the project, the sisters received phone calls from other prospective volunteer bakers.

Ms. Wieder said that while none of the bakers has official kosher certification, as far as she knows, only one baker (new this year) does not have a kosher kitchen.

“Most people trust the kashrut of an individual’s home,” she said, adding that a few bat mitzvah girls in Bergenfield and Florida took on the baking project to raise money for Sharsheret.

So far, the project has raised some $140,000, “between donations and baked goods.”

“We’re learning different things every year,” she said, crediting her sister as “recipe creator.

“The pies are yummy and delicious,” she said, reeling off flavors ranging from pumpkin to pecan to chocolate chip cookie dough. They also make breads, such as pumpkin cranberry loaves.

Last year, the sisters made more than 400 pies and some 280 breads. They bake to order, making a few extras for themselves and their families.

“We start Sunday and finish Tuesday afternoon,” Ms. Wieder said. “It’s all fresh – no freezing. One close friend purchased a stand-alone oven, so now we’ve got three ovens, three mixers, and three bakers.”

Her sister, Adeena Sussman, said that because she is the only woman in the family “not afflicted with cancer, I felt extra committed to helping find cures, or at least supporting women in the community living with cancer.

“It was a very personal drive,” she said. “My sister is very dear to me. That she could emerge cancer-free – I was very grateful.”

She said that while her mother was “very low key, she led by example, both in her profession and at home. We learned to cook, entertain, host, and be gracious. We tried to figure out something to do to reflect her values and the way she lived her life.

“On a lark,” she said, the two decided to “bake some pies and see what happens. Sharon was volunteering for Sharsheret, which helped with the back end of the project, doing administrative stuff and setting up web pages.”

The first year, the project earned more than $16,000.

“We’re letting [the project] grow at its natural pace,” Ms. Sussman said, noting that while originally most of the bakers were friends, “this year, four or five sales are spearheaded by people who didn’t know my mom or sister but who decided to do it on their own,” whether through a personal connection to ovarian cancer or to Sharsheret.

“It’s a purely voluntary endeavor. None [of them] are working on it for compensation.”

Ms. Sussman, whose professional life lies “at the intersection of publishing and cooking, food and writing,” said she came up with her pie recipes through trial and error.

“My mom would have liked the pecan pie,” she said, calling her mother “a wonderful baker.”

Still, she said, working together with her sister is the most rewarding part of the project.

“It’s a great way to do something meaningful, fun, and spend time together. It feels very natural. We were fortunate to be raised in a home where community service and good works were modeled.”

Elana Silber, Sharsheret’s director of operations, said the organization is extremely grateful to the sisters for their efforts.

“Pies for Prevention is an incredibly successful campaign that helps to raise awareness about ovarian cancer in the Jewish community and Sharsheret’s ovarian cancer program,” she said.

“With Sharsheret’s technology, we are able to offer easy online pie-ordering in 18 locations nationally and internationally, and engage thousands through Sharsheret’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, each year we receive calls from women reaching out to Sharsheret for support, who explain that they learned about Sharsheret because they participated in Pies for Prevention.

“Pies for Prevention is not just another bake sale. It’s so much more.”

For more information, email srwieder@optonline.net or adeenasussman@gmail.com. Recipes, helpful tips, and other resources are available. Proceeds from the bake sale support the Stephanie Sussman and Ann Nadrich Memorial Fund and Sharsheret’s ovarian cancer program.

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