History of the First Presbyterian Easter Eggs
We all enjoy those wonderful chocolate covered peanut butter and coconut Easter Eggs that First Presbyterian produces each Easter. But have you ever wondered how it all began. Well, wonder no longer. Here’s the story taken from a speech that Donna Myers gave on September 12, 1999 during the celebration and burning of the mortgage for the church’s Fellowship Hall. In 1991 First Presbyterian had a beautiful new fellowship hall but also a $250,000 mortgage. There was some concern about how we were going to meet our obligation to repay the mortgage loan. Many different avenues were explored to raise money but none could generate the amount of revenue that was needed. Just think how many cakes and cookies you would have to sell to raise $250,000!
One person who was determined to find a solution was Donna Myers. One night she and her husband, Bob, had dinner with Bob’s boss, Kent Conrad, who lived in Harrisburg, Pa. Always on the look out for ideas on how to raise money she asked Conrad if he had any ideas for good money making projects. He didn’t at that moment but a few weeks later he sent her a newsletter from a church in Lykens, Pa with an article on their Easter egg project. The church was producing 214,000 eggs each year and selling them for .45 cents each. Attached to the newsletter was a note from Conrad asking, “How do you like this for profit?”
Getting the name and phone number of a contact at the Lykens church from Conrad, Donna called and asked about the egg project. The church agreed to send her information about the eggs including the recipe. The only proviso was that we never reveal the recipe to anyone else. And to this day the recipe remains a very guarded secret.
Recipe in hand Donna called Norma Stikeleather and asked if she would liked to try her hand at making Easter eggs. Always game, Norma said yes even though she knew it meant work – lots of work. Donna said “We decided to use Norma’s kitchen because it was bigger and cat hair doesn’t show as much as dog hair”.
They had to modify the quantities in the recipe to fit home-mixers. But even with the modifications it was soon evident that home-mixers would over-heat. Fortunately one of the mixers held out long enough to make enough eggs to send with their husbands to work. If the comments were favorable then they would proceed with the project. When Bob and Tom got home their first comment was, “Girls, you have a winner.”
First order of business was to buy a commercial mixer which was accomplished with a $500 loan from Margaret Burks.
Then they needed supplies, but because it would be a small order, E. G. Forrest wasn’t interested in talking to them. Another church member came to the rescue. Debbie Dillon had a doughnut business and offered to add our order to hers and that would give us 30 days in which to pay.
Next was to assemble a work crew so they called all the retired folks and asked them to come to Norma’s house to make eggs. And come they did.
It would be two weeks before the kitchen would be finished in the Fellowship Hall, so they set up production in Norma’s house. They worked in the kitchen – in the dining room – in the living room – in the garage – and anywhere they could find a spot. Norma later said, “It took me years to vacuum up all the powdered sugar.”
Once the kitchen in the Fellowship Hall was completed, they moved the operation to the church. Donna said, “It was amazing what that group of people could do. And it was not just our members, but friends from the community came to help. Everyone showed a true commitment and were dependable but managed to have fun at the same time. They enjoyed each others company so much that once the eggs were completed they formed the Presbyterian Gad Abouts (PGAs) to continue the fellowship throughout the year.”
That first year they produced enough eggs to make a profit of $3,000. Each year the number of sales grew until in 1999 they had raised $114,000 to help retire the mortgage debt early.
There were many who gave of their time and talents to help make this project a success. It’s impossible to name every one who helped but just a few were: Kay Sudderth who had to balance her job as Church Secretary along with taking egg orders, making deliveries any time day or night, and sending thank you notes. Glenn Crozier who designed and built the device to cut the foil paper to just the right size to wrap the eggs. Glenn was always looking for ways to help make things easier such as the peanut butter dispenser. Banks Beane who wanted us to do eggs all year long and Art Fisher who boasted that he had been fired from every job but still came in every day to help.
Donna ended her speech by saying, “To outsiders they are just very good chocolate Easter eggs. To us they have become a powerful witness as to what God can do when everyone works together.”