In her bright red apron, Lucy Pierannunzi is at ease in the kitchen. The Keene 5th-grader has been baking with her mom, Jessica, since before she was tall enough to reach the counter.
And on Tuesday evening, Lucy, 10, whose full name is Lucia, was making pumpkin chocolate chip bread and muffins, using a beloved family recipe. The process is the same as it’s always been: First comes the sugar, then the oil, eggs, flour and canned pumpkin.
But this week, Lucy is baking for a cause: She’s raising money for Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit organization that supports families of people in the service with interest-free loans, counseling and grants. She and other volunteers will hold a bake sale Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in front of Ted’s Shoe & Sport at 115 Main St. in downtown Keene.
Lucy said she came up with the idea for the bake sale when she heard members of the Coast Guard were not getting paid during the partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 21 and ended Jan. 25. The government has reopened temporarily, with a deadline of Feb. 15 while President Donald Trump and Congress resume negotiations over funding Trump wants for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I just thought that I should do something about it,” Lucy, who goes to Wheelock Elementary School, said. “... I just love to bake, and I was thinking I’d put one of my passions to, like, a good cause and raise money for the people in need in the Coast Guard.”
Her mom helped with the logistics, setting up a fundraising page and securing a spot for the bake sale. But Lucy is doing most of the baking and even made an announcement about the fundraiser at school and discussed it on a local radio station.
Unlike the other four branches of the military, which are part of the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, meaning its personnel were among the hundreds of thousands of federal employees without paychecks during the 35-day shutdown.
Even though the shutdown has ended, Lucy said supporting the Coast Guard is still a good cause.
“There’s always Coast Guard members in need, if there’s a government shutdown or not,” she said.
The Coast Guard was on the family’s mind because Lucy’s dad, Keene firefighter Frank Pierannunzi, served in the Coast Guard for more than two decades before retiring in 2014. The family was affected by previous shutdowns, but not by the most recent one, since Frank is no longer enlisted but is not yet old enough to collect a pension, Jessica said.
Lucy said she wants to raise about $2,000 for Coast Guard families. Thus far, her mom said, the family has raised about $800 through online donations and a fundraiser last Friday at Luca’s Mediterranean Cafe, during which the Keene restaurant donated a portion of its sales of locally brewed beers.
Jessica said she’s hopeful her daughter can reach her goal, especially because the community has already stepped in to help. Since word of the fundraiser got out, more than a dozen friends, family and strangers have volunteered to make baked goods for Lucy’s sale, Jessica said.
Luca’s will also donate a cake to the bake sale, Lucy added.
One of those volunteers is Karen Rathbun of Chesterfield, whose 22-year-old son, Jack, is in the Coast Guard and worked without pay during the shutdown.
Rathbun, who said another Coast Guard mom told her about Lucy and her bake sale, has already made and frozen chocolate-chip cookie dough and is planning to make chocolate-covered pretzel rods and biscotti.
Though her son had saved enough money to support himself through the shutdown, many families did not have that safety net. Coast Guard families may also face other non-shutdown-related hardships, Rathbun said, but are often forgotten in the discussion about the nation’s armed forces.
Rathbun said she’s moved by Lucy’s effort.
“You just want to reach out, give her a hug and do anything you can to help her.”
Lucy, for her part, will be baking every evening for the rest of the week. Knowing that other volunteers will likely make chocolate-chip cookies, brownies and other bake sale staples, she said, she and her mom are planning to add their favorites to the mix, like chocolate-covered cake balls and, of course, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.
And beyond the cause, Lucy said, “I just enjoy baking, and I like sharing the baked goods with other people,” she said.
Those interested in donating directly to Lucy’s campaign can do so at https://bit.ly/2B39ofL.