Finding Purpose in a Pandemic

Finding Purpose in a Pandemic

While many of us bemoaned the “lost” summer of 2020, recent Duke School graduates Ava Claar and Rachel Pellom ‘20 turned their pandemic-imposed staycations into a “Baking for Change” enterprise that netted over $4,100 benefiting Durham’s Interfaith Food Shuttle.

Inspired by her cousin who launched a similar baking fundraiser, Ava recruited her friend Rachel as her baking partner. Together they baked and delivered over 60 loaves of sourdough, banana, and pumpkin breads and blueberry yogurt pound cakes to neighbors, friends and family during the month of July. Customers donated directly to the “Baking for Change” fundraising page on the Food Shuttle website.

“I've always wanted to do something like this to help,” said Ava. “It was this whole idea of, ‘I have been provided with this time under very unlikely circumstances. So, what am I going to do with it to make a difference and make an impact?’”

“It was a lot of baking … and a lot of trips to the grocery store,” added Rachel.

Choosing an organization to help was challenging as they both are passionate about many causes.

“It was really hard to narrow it down to one,” said Ava. “Now more than ever, people need food, especially during the coronavirus, and it will help underprivileged kids and underprivileged families. So, that is why I felt very confident picking that organization.”

The girls were already familiar with the Interfaith Food Shuttle, participating in the organization’s Backpack Buddies program as first graders at Duke School.

“I remember helping pack backpacks in first grade—bringing cans of soup and little macaroni and cheese packages, putting them in bags and donating,” said Rachel. “The Food Shuttle is helping a lot of people who are having a hard time with their jobs, working from home, and providing for their families. I think it was a good decision.”

It was a learning experience in many ways. Rachel and Ava gained valuable business knowledge by setting up a business email account, building a webpage, and managing their orders and deliveries in a spreadsheet.

“I didn't realize how much work it was—not just baking, but organizing,” said Rachel. “Where's the money going to go? How are we going to keep track of this? How will we contact people? How do people contact us?”

Communication—with clients and each other—was key, and one area where they believe Duke School trained them well.

“In Duke School you're taught to communicate with people and be friendly and nice. It was definitely awkward to go up to those random people's doors, but I think it would be so much more awkward if we hadn’t gone to a school where conversation and openness are a main focus,” said Ava.

The girls will consider future service ventures as their schedules permit, and they expect their Duke School ties to undoubtably play a role.

“If I were to do this again, I would definitely, like right out of the gate, contact the Duke School community because I know that people in this community are thoughtful and they really do care,” said Ava. “If we want to do something like this, we can fall back on them and their generosity to try and make a difference and make a change.”

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