The tyranny of bake sales

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Any suburban parent who joins a volunteer group will get roped into baking goodies to raise money.

It's a law of the suburbs, like lawn care and driveway repaving. You have to do it.

The fact that bake sales are the worst way to raise money is beside the point.

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The situation is complicated further if one works outside the home. Baking, if it happens at all, is a late-night or weekend endeavor. It's still preferable to in-person volunteering, however. My strategy goes like this: When faced with a choice between helping at the bead-stringing table or baking cookies, the cookies win.

Bake sales are highly competitive. I have seen people surreptitiously move their desserts to the front. Others rely on fancy packaging, wrapping their burnt brownies in three layers of plastic wrap, tied together with a ribbon.

Labeling is critical, because the person who staffs the bake-sale table might otherwise tell buyers that yours is a lemon-cream pie when it's actually vanilla.

But in the end, there's not enough cookie dough on the planet to make real dough. People don't want to pay for a lop-sided cake or misshapen pie when they can buy a perfect one at a bakery, where they can rely on quality control.

Recently I spoke with a mother who fund-raises for a living. She told me that she avoids bake sales because they're too bush league. She doesn't volunteer to bake either.

"I'd rather just hand them a check," she says.

Amen.

*Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at home@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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