Twelve years ago, two sisters in East Northport decided Halloween should be included in the season of giving.
Dylan and Zoe Perles were only 7 and 5 years old, respectively, when they came up with an idea to host a bake sale on Halloween to raise money for the food pantry at the First Presbyterian Church in Northport.
As they’ve grown, so have the scope and success of the annual fundraiser, which they will hold at their home on Tuesday. Zoe, 17, said they have raised more than $10,000 since they began.
“They were very thoughtful kids, and they had a lot of very creative ideas from a young age,” said their mother, Halle Brenner-Perles, 47. She said the family keeps records of how much they raise each year.
The girls originally wanted to put up a lemonade stand. They lived on a quiet dead-end street, though, and it was only busy one day a year: Halloween. The first year they had a bake sale, they made $100.
“It turns out most kids don’t tend to go trick-or-treating with their wallets,” Halle said.
After that, they started to spread the word. Dylan, Zoe, their younger sister, Kyra, and groups of friends now canvass door to door for hours to let people know about the bake sale. They also put up flyers around their neighborhood and in Northport Village a week or two before.
“I couldn’t imagine spending Halloween any other way,” said Kyra, 12, who was only 5 months old when her sisters began the fundraiser.
Dylan,19, who went away to college at SUNY New Paltz this year, returned this weekend to help with preparations. Zoe, a senior at Northport High School who is applying to colleges, said she plans to do the same thing next year.
The extra help is needed in the kitchen on baking weekend. The Perles girls and their friends made 30 loaves of pumpkin bread, 75 decorated cupcakes, and hundreds of decorated sugar cookies, Brenner-Perles said. While her other daughters were at school Monday, Brenner-Perles and Dylan baked pumpkin pies and pumpkin cakes.
People from the neighborhood came by to drop off baking supplies over the weekend, too, she said. Other members of the community plan to donate banana bread and muffins.
Kyra runs the make-your-own-cupcake station, a favorite for the younger kids who come by on Halloween. Other favorite treats, like pumpkin Rice Krispies Treats with faces made of M&M’s and licorice, have remained staples throughout the years. This year, Frankenstein Rice Krispies Treats made an appearance, too.
The Perles and their friends haven’t shied away from trying new things each year, though.
When superstorm Sandy hit, the whole community came together in the face of power outages and widespread damage.
“I’ll never forget, my daughters and I got up really, really early Sunday and put 25 pumpkin breads in the oven,” Halle Perles said. “Right as we took them out, the power went out.”
They went to a neighbor’s house that still had power to finish their baking. Even though there wasn’t much of a Halloween celebration that year, the fundraiser wasn’t canceled. They raised $1,000, the most ever until that point.
“It’s become something that has touched so many people,” Zoe said. “I don’t think any of us expected it.”
The food pantry on 330 Main St. in Northport reaches about 150 families a week, according to Sally Stark, who runs the pantry. She said the donations from the bake sale go toward buying groceries.
“It’s super, we’re very proud of them,” she said. “We really look forward to it.”
For Kyra and Zoe, their favorite part is bringing the money they’ve raised to the food pantry.
“I always just love seeing how happy everyone gets,” Kyra said.
The bake sale is held at the Perles’ home on Kalmia Street. They set up at 3:30 p.m. and break down when it’s dark, but people are still welcome to knock on their door afterward, Brenner-Perles said.