Twin brothers turn baking into a mitzva
On Friday, Dec. 23, there will be a bake sale at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. Nothing exceptional about that — except that the baked goods won’t be from the parents; they’ll be the work of 13-year-old twins Joel and Matthew Damron of Plainsboro.
That sale will be the culmination of a season that has seen the boys go from strength to strength with the hobby they have turned into an ongoing tzedaka project.
On Dec. 7, they delivered a check for $2,000 to their chosen charity, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, bringing the total they had raised for it so far to $6,835.
More will come in. In addition to the school sale, they have holiday orders to fill. But then, they say, they will take a rest — at least until January.
The venture started in 2007, when the twins, now eighth-graders at West Windsor-Plainsboro’s Community Middle School, were nine. According to their mother, Leah Best-Damron, the boys asked about an envelope that had arrived in the mail with the Ronald McDonald House logo. Their father Bill explained that the institution provides accommodation in numerous places for the families of hospitalized children, and that it needs lots of donations to fund its work.
There was also a special reason for them to care about Ronald McDonald House. Leah wrote in an e-mail to NJ Jewish News, “When they were born and for periods during their first five years, one of the twins required the expertise of surgeons and staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and we were blessed with the opportunity to stay at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.”
Matthew asked, “Can we help?” A while later, their mother, who is a teacher, said she and the twins were having breakfast in a restaurant when the boys pulled out “calculators, paper, pens… and their Dessert Buffet Bake Sale was born.”
Joel and Matt now make cakes, pies, and breads and sell them each fall at local schools and stores and at their father’s office. Their menu ranges from cheese cake and rugelach to items like cider pumpkin streusel bread and chocolate truffle cake. All the proceeds go to PRMH. Leah said, “The first year they raised $500, the second year $900, the third $1,370, and last year $2,065.”
From the start, the twins did all the preparation and baking; Joel has become the expert pie crimper. Matt devised a way to make the crust vents in the shape of the RMH logo, a house with a heart. “I’ve developed a nose for when the apple pies are done,” he said. “I can tell just when the juice is going to start bubbling up.”
“I supervise,” Leah told NJJN. “Yes, I may check that there is no unmixed batter on the bottom of the bowl, and triple check that ingredients have been tripled if they are tripling the recipe.”
As messy as things might get, Leah said, doing the baking with her boys has provided some of her “best life experiences ever.”
As they approached their b’nei mitzva – celebrated last March at Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor — Joel and Matt realized that they already had the required tzedaka project. In a Dec. 7 phone interview Matt told NJJN, “You’re required to do 10 hours. We’d already done four years!”
Since the b’nei mitzva, Beth El’s social action committee has stepped up to support the boys’ baking efforts and their support of RMH, gathering contributions of ingredients and supermarket gift cards to provide a welcome relief from the project’s growing cost.
Last June, the twins received The Joshua Harr Shane Tzedakah Award at Beth El, and during the 2009-10 school year, they won a Humanitarian Award from the Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum, a program based at the College of New Jersey in Ewing. They clearly enjoy their success, but neither Joel nor Matt, the more outgoing twin, would say whether they’re good. “Mom toots the horn for us,” Matt said.
Other people do, too.
Beth El’s Rabbi Jay Kornsgold told NJJN, “The boys are really wonderful people. They’re very, very caring individuals. It’s magnificent how much time and effort and commitment they’ve put into this project.”
Dr. Michael Welborn, the principal of Wicoff Elementary School in Plainsboro, where they did their first four years of schooling, told NJJN in an e-mail, “Each year my staff looks forward to the ‘Damron Boys’ Bake Sale.’ They are remarkable young men and their baking skills are out of this world. I am so very proud of their accomplishments and all that they have done over the years.”
Chris Callanan, special events and communications manager for PRMH, said, “We are so appreciative of the Damron family, and especially of what the boys have done to ‘give back.’”
To obtain a menu or place an order for baked goods next year, contact Joel and Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.