Every Thursday morning as she's done for the past 14 years, Marguerite "Mugs" Christensen leaves her Staples home in the pre-dawn hours, arriving at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd between 3:30 to 3:45 a.m. to make doughnuts.
It's a volunteer activity that would make most people want to roll over and hit the snooze button on their alarm clock.
Christensen and about 10 other senior volunteers arrive at the senior center in shifts early Thursday mornings, making enough batches of batter to deep fry about 110 dozen homemade doughnuts. Two weeks ago they made a record 156 dozen doughnuts. When the doughnuts are done, they dip them in frosting, add sprinkles and box them up for the many Brainerd area workers who arrive Thursday morning to warm homemade doughnuts in their workplace.
It's a fund-raising effort for the senior center that now makes up 10 percent of the center's annual budget. The center has a fryer that automatically churns out the doughnuts, a machine donated several years ago by the American Legion in Brainerd. Before that, volunteers had to drop the doughnuts into a deep fryer by hand, a task that seemed to take forever, said Christensen.
The reason she drags herself out of bed so early each Thursday morning isn't just to make money for the center.
"I love to see the people," said Christensen. "I enjoy them, I really do."
The senior center almost needs a revolving door because of all the people who arrive each Thursday morning for their boxes of doughnuts. The senior volunteers look forward to seeing them and know most of them by name. Several people stop in and eat a doughnut or two and have coffee with volunteers. It's a Thursday morning routine. If a local attorney doesn't show up at his usual time to pick up his box of doughnuts, the volunteers start worrying about him.
"I love it, even if I have to get up early in the morning," said Peg Richter, Brainerd. "It's the satisfaction of knowing we're doing a bang-up job. I love the customers. I know most of their names by heart."
By the end of the year, the senior center will be relocating to its new site at the former Kingwood Good Samaritan Center building, said Jill Waller, executive director of the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center.
The new facility will allow the doughnut volunteers to have their own serving kitchen and doughnut preparation room so volunteers like Christensen won't have to arrive so early on doughnut day. They're also hoping to purchase another doughnut machine now that they'll have more space.
"They're the best in town," Waller said of the senior doughnuts. "No offense to anyone who makes doughnuts in town, but it's the only place where you can get warm, fresh doughnuts. And people love to support the seniors."
"It takes me a day to get over this," said Christensen, as she relaxed with a cup of coffee Thursday after the morning rush. "I'm really looking forward to moving over there."
To preorder senior doughnuts, call the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center at 829-9345.
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