Community volunteers work together
Perogies are the fuel that keeps Sandy Lake going!” said Stella Kowalchuk.
Looking around the community hall 30-plus people could be seen, all busy making perogies as a fundraiser for the Sandy Lake Museum. A half-dozen apron-clad men were in the kitchen, rolling and cutting the dough and boiling and buttering the delectable little potato and cheese dumplings.
Several long tables were filled with people seated in front of plates of pale-orange potato balls, which were the “stuffing” for the perogies. Everyone was wearing caps or hairnets, and handwashing was the order of the day, as all food-handling regulations are carefully adhered to. These folks were the “perogy-pinching” crew.
Behind a long table, on which was displayed a “sea” of perogies, stood Walter Kiliwnik of Elphinstone, supervising the cooling, counting and quality control process. Once cool, the perogies are bagged and then frozen, ready for sale.
Rose Rogaski, 75, explained that a day earlier, 180 pounds of potatoes were peeled and boiled in seven big pots, then mashed with cheddar cheese and Cheez Whiz and formed into stiff little one-inch balls for filling the dough.
Day No. 2 began at 8:30 a.m. with a break at 10 for coffee and a snack. A tasty lunch of perogies (what else?), garlic sausage, salad and dessert was served at noon and by about 1:30 p.m. a whopping 380 dozen perogies had been made!
Helen Lewandoski, vice-president of the Sandy Lake Museum board, said that perogies are made three times a year as a fundraiser for the museum. The money goes into the organization’s general coffers and will be used to pay the salary of a summer student and to aid in the development of a self-guided tour of the historical sites of the town.
Perogy-making bees such as this one are not only held for the museum, but also for the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Ukranian Catholic Church, the Seniors’ Drop-In Centre and the Communities In Bloom organization. Rogaski said that perogies paid for two gowns at $950 each for Father Emil of the Ukranian Catholic Church and the funds also help to pay the caretaker.
Perogy-making bees are held three times a year for the museum, three or four times a year for the churches and two times a year for Communities In Bloom and many of the same volunteers participate each time.
Who buys and eats all these perogies? Walter and Anne Kiliwnik said that 379 dozen perogies recently made for the drop-in centre were sold for $3.50 a dozen and were gone in a week! People love perogies – local residents and their families, campers, hunters and visitors from Brandon and Winnipeg.
Busy at one table were Sandy Lake residents Phinnette Kristalovich, Liz Antonation and Wayne Kowalchuk, and Janice Duchominsky of Winnipeg Winnipeg was there with her sister and mother, Helen Derhak, 86. Why do people come out to the perogy-making bees?
Duchominsky said, “I just love doing it!” The others agreed, adding that they enjoy it as a reason to get together and visit with other people. More than that though, is the sense of community and accomplishment everyone feels. Mike Hnatiuk, who will be 91 this month said, “It’s fun and I don’t have to cook my own lunch!”
Wayne Kowalchuk, a councillor in the R.M. of Harrison, worries what will happen when people get too old to come out and wonders if younger people will continue with the volunteer effort.
Time will tell, but for now, the community has a strong commitment to working together for the good of Sandy Lake.
If you’re not sure what to do with perogies, boil them from fresh or frozen until they float. Eat them that way, or fry them until they are golden brown. Perogies can be deep fried, too. As the perogies from Sandy Lake are already cooked, they can just be heated in the microwave. Serve with sour cream and fried onions, bacon, sweet cream and dill or wild cranberry jelly or cranberry sauce.
If you’d like to purchase Sandy Lake perogies, contact any of the organizations mentioned or check out the Sandy Lake Co-op.
Oncecool,theperogies arebaggedandthen frozen,readyforsale.