The fundraiser events put on by Millville United Methodist Church each month have become much more than mere money-makers. They’ve grown to social gatherings of both the congregation and community. And with a new minister in town, last week’s First Annual Blueberry Festival was the perfect way to welcome new members and neighbors.
“I had a lot of help from my husband, Joe,” said Millville United Methodist member and coordinator of the fundraiser, Elizabeth Skinner, “and of course, from everybody here. It was really a group effort.”
Those who stopped by last Saturday were almost sure to leave with full bellies and purple-stained mouths. Community members and friends enjoyed freshly baked blueberry treats, from berry-filled kuchen, coffee cake and buckle to traditional muffins, preserves and pie. There was even blueberry sauce to enjoy over vanilla ice cream.
“I was afraid we wouldn’t have any baked goods,” Skinner said, “because we hadn’t heard from a lot of people, but they just kept pouring in.”
In fact, there was a great deal of participation that helped make the blueberry festival possible.
“Everybody throughout the congregation looked for recipes,” she said, “and we made a lot of dishes that we had never made before. It was a lot of fun to find out what we would end up with. It looks to me like everything turned out pretty well.”
She added that, next year, she hopes to assemble a blueberry cookbook, combining recipes from friends and other church members, available for purchase by the public.
Roughly 15 church members went picking at Blueberry Lane Farm in Frankford days before the festival, and they returned with 110 pounds of blueberries. Those that were not used in baked and cooked goods were bagged and sold.
“Probably close to 40 people contributed their time,” Skinner added. “That’s about half of our congregation. Those who didn’t help bake were helping with other things, like bagging up [the berries] or setting up the tents.”
Despite being their first attempt at a blueberry festivity, the turnout was more than respectable.
“We’d like to be doing this every year from here on out,” Skinner noted. “Fortunately, the weather’s been really nice, too.”
The church congregation is no stranger to such functions.
“We had our strawberry festival [earlier this year],” said Skinner, “and we put the tents up for that, and everyone came. So, we decided to do it again, but with blueberries. It’s a great social event.”
The church’s new minister, Don Schell, made sure to stop by for a bite.
“It’s a really great opportunity to meet new people,” said Schell, who recently relocated from southwestern New York to coastal Delaware with his wife, Diane. Both admitted having a sweet tooth for blueberry desserts.
“We’re happy to have them,” said Skinner of the new minister and his family. “This gives everyone a chance to get acquainted with the members.”
The church holds bake sales on the last Saturday at the end of each month, in addition to the past berry festivals. The next one will be held inside the church, located at the corner of Route 26 and Club House Road, on July 28 from 8 a.m. until the items sell out.
“It doesn’t usually take too long,” said Skinner of the bake sale sell-outs, “sometimes, just a few hours.”
Over the years, Skinner has taken pride in the goods that she and her friends have produced.
“I really enjoy cooking, particularly baking. We’re an older congregation, but we have lots of love and we’re all good cooks,” she said with a laugh.