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Strawberry shortcake tingles taste buds for good cause

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Handpicked by volunteers and mashed into toppings, 122 pounds of strawberries tingled the taste buds of those who stopped by a fundraiser Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds exhibition hall.

“This is Christian love in action,” said 72-year-old Sylvia J. Reimer, one of about 20 volunteers from Watertown United Methodist churches — First United, Asbury and Bethany — who pitched in to host the inaugural strawberry festival. Donations supported the ongoing $2 million “Mission Possible” capital campaign at Watertown Urban Mission, which will renovate the nonprofit’s building at 247 Factory St.

Mrs. Reimer, a parishioner at First United Methodist Church, teamed up with Bruce R. Irwin from Asbury United Methodist Church to dollop strawberry toppings and ice cream on shortcake for people in line. Whipped cream was sprayed as a final touch before plastic bowls, made heavy with ingredients, were handed off. The pair of volunteers took time to chat with people in line.

Mr. Irwin, a member of the Urban Mission’s board of directors, said the Watertown Area Methodist Churches group has set a goal to raise $2,000 a year over the next five years to benefit the capital campaign, for which about $1.3 million has been raised so far. The group plans to do so by hosting community activities like the strawberry festival, which Mr. Irwin said will probably be held here again next summer.

The group decided fundraisers are more effective than simply asking for money, Mr. Irwin said, “because they get people together. And it’s a good chance for us to meet people from other churches.”

Upbeat music from the local band Amarillo and face painting for children added to the festive atmosphere Saturday.

“I’ve probably done 100 faces,” said 20-year-old Allison M. Rhode, who was painting a butterfly on a young girl’s face. The graphic design major at SUNY Oswego, who was painting faces for the first time, demonstrated her artistic talent after her mother, Joanne M., encouraged her to volunteer. The Rhode family attends Asbury United Methodist church.

“I’ve done spiders and butterflies, Iron Man, Superman and Batman,” Miss Rhode said.

The trio of United Methodist churches recruits volunteers to host fundraisers and events throughout the year, said Mrs. Reimer, who’s been a parishioner at First United for 31 years. Last week, for example, she joined about 30 volunteers to host Vacation Bible School. The 53 children who participated learned about five different countries during the week.

“We made quesadillas when they learned about Mexico,” she said.

Local businesses that made donations for the festival included Price Chopper, Stewart’s Shops, Michaels Arts and Crafts, and Bouyea Fassetts Bakery Outlet.

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