Building a $9 million community center with pie

KINGSTON — The Village Green Foundation’s annual Pie in the Park event raised close to $40,000 on Aug. 10. The event didn’t beat the $50,000 raised in 2015, but “we’re really hoping this will allow us to bite off a significant chunk of our outstanding loan to become debt free,” said Linda Fyfe, Village Green building manager and programs coordinator.

The Village Green Foundation is raising money to eradicate a loan debt of nearly $500,000 on the $9 million Village Green Community Center.

The event began with a new feature: a family fun segment before the auction. Kids’ games — including quarter games, a pie walk and a mini-pie eating contest — made winners of all participants.

Lacy Anders, organizer of the family fun segment, said the event was fun for all. Growing up in Kingston, Anders remembered her first Pie in the Park with her husband and children.

“We had $100 in our pocket,” she said. “While, of course, we couldn’t afford a pie, because those proceeds went to the creation of the Village Green, I wanted to give back.

“We want to make sure the kids are part of a positive community,” she said. “We want to keep it a community where we see our neighbors and have fun. And where our kids can go to the park have community members recognize them, and be safe while having fun.

“This gives families an opportunity to come and participate. Even if someone only has $25, they can donate to a good cause and feel part of the community.”

The family fun hour alone raised $600 for the Village Green.

Nearly 300 Kingston residents gathered to connect with friends, eat, and make those high-ticket bids on extraordinary pies.

How much, you ask?

Last year’s top two pies — a salted caramel peanut butter fudge and a summer sangria with nectarines, raspberries, and strawberries — went for $750 each, helping to raise more than $35,000 total.

This year, the bidding commenced with a high bid of $5,400 by Dave Wetter for two choice pies — a chocolate and peanut butter pie, made by Tami Bowen; and a CB’s peanut butter and Theo’s chocolate and a red wine and chocolate, from Micki Monroe owner of d’Vine Wines.

A donation-only hot dog and pulled pork station run and supplied by Mimi Smith-Danielson fed families in attendance for the event.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s firefighters showed the sweet and the savory to bidders.

Auctioneer Clint Boxman opened the bidding. Cards quickly rose as the auction commenced.

“Do I hear $220?” Boxman said. “Two, two, now I have two, oh— three, do I hear $310?”

And the game continued as bidders vied for their top pies.

Twenty-six pies were auctioned off in less than three hours, according to Daniel Johnson, executive director of the Village Green Foundation.

Johnson said Boxman is the guy who makes all the “magic happen.”

“He knows everyone out there,” he said. “He served on the Village Green board for 10 years. He’s trusted and beloved and, honestly, I think it’s his sincerity, good looks, and charm that help make it happen.”

Boxman remembers when he was first approached by Nancy Martinson, a member of the Village Green Foundation, to assist in the pie auction.

“I looked her and I thought, ‘You want me to sell pies to build a community center’? But yes, that’s how we did it,” he said.

In addition to delicious pies, highest-bidding community members won items in the silent auction that included trips, wine packages and one-of-a-kind experiences. A pie-baking class at the Village Green was also won.

While this year’s event didn’t square up Village Green’s outstanding loan, Johnson expects the foundation’s “Breakfast at Village Green” in the spring will make another dent.

Will Pie in the Park continue?

Johnson responded with a firm “Yes!”

“It’s a great way to bring the community together,” he said. “The foundation will continue to raise money to support programs in the community center as well as supporting other important community needs.”

And while the event is just past, Johnson said organizers are already looking forward to next year.

“There were more people than ever before — more families with kids, more firefighters, and more dogs than ever before,” Johnson said. “Everyone was just thrilled, and everyone kept saying, ‘Only in Kingston.’

“The Village Green is a legacy of Kingston. This is Kingston’s legacy and I think that’s pretty cool.”

— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Contact her at sbonomi@soundpublishing.com.