One student watches over the dough mixer in a white apron with red trim like it is part of his usual dress – because it is.
Justin Lambillotte, 15, is known for his apron fashion, pie making and secure manhood among the group. It is one of the reasons he keeps coming back to the Avant House of Prayer’s weekly Wednesday night study and cooking session.
“It’s fun. Keeps us out of trouble, and I get to wear this pretty apron,” Lambillotte said as he fanned out the apron as if performing a curtsey.
“Way to rock that apron,” Megan Reeves, 13, told him as she flipped him the thumbs up. His pies are also making people talk. Lambillotte is the best pie maker in the group, according to Terri Sappington, one of the adult supervisors at the church. He’s also a confident role model for other guys, she said. “You have to be a secure man to wear an apron.”
Being a confident and positive role model is what the group is all about, along with studying and baking.
As students finish their homework than begin to wander onto the tiled floor and into the kitchen as they do ever week.
“I try to stay out of the way and stick to the measuring cups,” Sappington said with a laugh. “They are to the point now where I can give them a recipe and let them go.”
Sappington, who is known as mama to the group, leads in the kitchen as other adults, like her husband, papa, and honor students help with the homework. One of Sappington’s daughters, Sheri Gillette, is also there to assist with homework when she can and help avoid baking mistakes – like electronically infused biscuits.
“No texting and baking,” Gillette said to one of the student using her phone over the mixing bowl of biscuit batter. “I don’t want to find a phone in it.”
After the batter is mixed and rolled, they will use “the cup” to cut the biscuits into the perfect size. It is the same cup that has been used for the church’s biscuits since Gillette was old enough to remember cooking there.
“You can’t cut them with anything else. They won’t taste right,” Gillette said.
Although the group cooks whole meals, sweets were on their mind. When asked what the students’ favorite items to bake were, desserts came up first for almost everyone – cakes, cupcakes, chocolate pie and so forth. In fact, they have learn to bake about “200 and something desserts,” according to Andrewe Hansen, 19, who helps with the church’s praise and worship. While 200 might be a bit of an exaggeration, it seemed like the kids could list off that many desserts. Desserts can be a unifying food to bake; Who doesn’t like desserts? Everyone, from the oldest to the youngest student, likes desserts.
“We’ve had them as young as five,” Sappington said.
“Nope, three,” Gillette corrected her mother.
“Oh, that’s right. We’ve had them as young as three and as old as 16,” Sappington said.
Regardless of age or the amount of people, the group has been getting together for years to bake and study with one another, sometimes even on Sundays. Last year they baked and sold enough goods to send each of them to summer church camp, and every year they bake the church’s Thanksgiving meal for about 80 people.
The students do more than cook the meals though, they serve, wait on members and clean up as well.
“These kids work hard and are dedicated. They don’t just cook the food and disappear,” Sappington said.
Sometimes the students get a chance to teach the adults, too. On the last Wednesday of the month, the youth and adult classes come together for a youth-led service.
“It’s a youth-centered service that the adults get to take part in,” Gillette said.
The whole event reinforces the main goal of the Avant group by providing positive role models and a positive side to the town that many might not see, Gillette said.
It’s like the example of Nazareth, according to Sappington. “People said nothing good could come out of Nazareth, but Jesus did.”
While they aren’t expecting a prophet to be born in Avant, they are more than happy to settle for solid studying and blessed baking.