SOPHIA - The mouthwatering aroma of fresh pie wafts through Sophia Freewill Baptist Church.
Members of the ladies auxiliary have stations set up for mixing, rolling, filling and frying. Long tables are lined with half-moon-shaped fried pies in flavors that include apple, cherry, coconut, chocolate, peach, pineapple, lemon, blueberry and raisin.
"We average 600 to 700 each time we fry pies," said auxiliary president Illene Barr, 78. "We could sell a thousand in the bat of an eye. We turn down orders."
From September through June, the women gather two days each month to make pies.
The pastries are sold at the bargain price of $1.75 each and the proceeds used to support missionaries in the United States and abroad. They currently send funds to missionary families in New York, West Virginia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Venezuela. These people do everything from plant churches to work with youth groups.
"We sell thousands of pies every year," Barr said. "It's for a good cause."
The pie project has a history dating back to the late 1940s, when church member and local grocery store owner Thelma Paisley launched it. The ladies would make about 300 apple pies at a time in a kitchen in the back of the store and take them to schools and area businesses to sell for a dime each.
Paisley has passed away, but the pie project continues as a major fundraiser with more flavors and growing popularity.
Some of the ladies now making pies recall being part of the project when their mothers participated.
Vicki Sturgill said she and her husband, Jim, were beneficiaries of the project during the 40 years they served as missionaries in Brazil. They are now retired and back home in Sophia, where she is a regular with the pie-making group.
"We appreciated it all those years," she said. "We appreciated the support they gave us and other missionaries, too. My husband grew up in this church. We came home to the property where his mother was raised."
The crew of about 20 women ranges in age from 43 to 81.