By Diana Hammell
An army marches on its stomach. The Caledonia Warrior volleyball army marches along partly on cookie cakes. Every October for the past three years this fundraiser has benefited the Warrior volleyball team as well as many a sweet tooth. The money goes to pay for tournament entry fees for all ages of volleyball players at Caledonia, giving them the experience of playing against better teams as well as equipment or other things needed by the teams.
Organizer and chief cookie chef Paula Augedahl said that this Herculean fundraising effort is actually an easy one to accomplish. She can say that because the volleyball team teams up along with parents and volunteers to create a well-oiled cookie factory that toils away from dawn to dusk once each year. Helen Olson, Melissa Schroeder and Sheila Schroeder stepped up to help Augedahl through the process this year.
It all began three years ago when the girls who are seniors this year were ninth graders. The girls, including Augedahl’s daughter, Angie, were on a Junior Olympic (JO) volleyball team that qualified to play at the national JO volleyball championship held in Reno, Nev. To raise money to help people afford the trip a fundraiser was needed. A brat fry was planned for April 4 but since that time of year is very iffy as far as Minnesota weather goes, they were scared into trying something else. Augedahl came up with the idea of baking cookie cakes. “People at work loved them and hired me to make them,” Augedahl said.
Everybody just falls in
The process of making the cakes is amazing, according to Augedahl. “Everybody just falls in. We give the girls simple instructions in how to run the mixers – fast at first to beat the butter and sugar and slow when flour is added, or else you have flour everywhere,” Augedahl said. “Everybody grabs a job and does it. We made 633 cakes this year.” The team comes in shifts to work at the kitchen in the high school during MEA when school is not in session. On baking day the crew was done mixing by 5 p.m. “We were cleaning up by the time the 5:30 shift came in.”
The process went faster this year because Blaine Moe brought the big mixer from the elementary school over for their use so the team had three mixers going all day long. The mixers can mix up 24 cakes at a time with each one holding eight cakes. “There are two to three girls at each mixer plus the girls who measure the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and chocolate chips. Everyone had a job, but if something needed to be done elsewhere someone made sure it got done. It’s easy work – measuring and opening up butter. It’s time consuming but it’s fun – maybe a little batter snitching in there too.” The girls are careful so not many cakes get broken. A few still crack or break and those get eaten up on the spot.
“My girls who help – they are awesome,” Augedahl said. “They do a great job. The parents did a great job too, and the women who helped coordinate did a great job counting and keeping track of everything.”
Lots of dish washing
The thing that can slow the process down is all the pan washing during the day. They used 27 individual pans. Many of the pans are Augedahl’s personal ones, and she borrows some from family and friends. She brought 21 pans to the kitchen, and some of the other volunteers brought some as well. “They may buy a bunch more with some of the proceeds from this year to use next year,” Augedahl said.
In order to keep the cost of supplies as low as possible, thus giving the girls a better result for the fundraiser, Augedahl is always on the lookout for sales. “I bought five cases of butter at Kwik Trip at Easter time,” Augedahl said. “Between our freezer and Karl Poston’s freezer we managed to keep it frozen until we needed it.” The five cases of butter didn’t cover what they needed but Kwik Trip gave them a great price on the remaining butter and eggs too. “Good Times donated 400 platters to put the cookies on and Elsie’s gave us 100 more. We cut out 200 more at my dad’s woodworking shop for good measure.” Kris Wedl at Good Times asked Augedahl, “Should I just order 800 platters for next year?” Kwik Trip also donated five cases of water for the bakers, dish washers and cleaner-uppers to drink during their work day. With all the batter flying around in that kitchen, Pam DeMorett said that they had to actually scrape the floor with a putty knife before they could scrub it.
Success is in the numbers
Eight girls made 178 cookie cakes for the first fundraising effort to send girls to JO. All eight stayed all day. For the first annual event to benefit the volleyball team they baked 253 cakes for an increase in sales of more than 70 percent. For the second annual event they baked 365 for another 70 percent increase. This year they increased sales by 58 percent to 633. Angie Augedahl sold 65 cookie cakes herself. “Who can’t afford a $10 donation, and you’re handed this great cookie cake in exchange,” said Augedahl. Anyone who has been within smelling distance of a still warm, fresh cookie cake knows very well why this confection is so saleable. They beg to be cut into immediately, and one slice soon follows another in short order.
The bakers used 300 pounds of sugar, 300 pounds of brown sugar, 650 pounds of flour, 104 dozen eggs, 315 pounds of butter, 25 bags of nuts and three quarts of vanilla. “You’re one sweet lady,” Augedahl was told at the grocery store check out.
Augedahl sends emails out informing potential customers about cookie cake time and asking them to reply if they would like to order one or two. Cookie cakes without nuts cost $10 and the ones with walnuts cost $12. “It’s crazy what can be done with a simple email,” she said.
It’s for a good cause
Augedahl’s daughter will graduate this spring but she’ll probably still help out in the kitchen on baking day. “The company I work for gives us eight hours a year to do community service,” Augedahl said. Baking day is 13 hours, but then she can go home having accomplished a good thing. “It’s for a good cause and I love volleyball.
“I like this fundraiser because the kids do the work. They sell them, they make them and they learn community service and teamwork – and they learn how to bake. It’s a win-win – making money for the team and learning community service.”
Their efforts are certainly appreciated by the volleyball coach, Scott Koepke. “The cookie cake fundraiser has really become a neat thing the volleyball team does,” Koepke said. “The efforts of all the players and parents is quite special. And, they really are pretty tasty and full of deliciousness. Paula has done so much organizing for this event, which by the way was her idea from the start. We truly appreciate all her time and effort over the years.”