If I can bake a pie, you can be a philanthropist.

by Leslie Ann Jackson

In May, I finished my “year of pie.”

I have always said, “I love to cook, but I hate to bake” and “I admire people who are good at baking, but it’s just not for me.” And also, “I’ll just stick to cooking. No need to learn to bake. I’ll leave that to those who enjoy it.”

I had created a clear division – people who bake and people who cook. I was the latter and that was that.

Then, last year, I decided to challenge that defeatist thinking. I decided to learn to bake pies.

I just thought I’d see what would happen if I tried to do something that I didn’t think I could do.

So, I decided to bake one pie each month for a year.  It would be my “year of pie”.


It took a while to get started. My first pie was for my friend’s wedding in June. Instead of a traditional wedding cake, she asked a few friends to bake pies that would be centerpieces at her wedding and then, would be sliced up and served to the guests.

When I first heard about it, I figured I’d skip it. She could easily find 10 other friends who have that talent. I mean, it was supposed to be my year of pie, but a wedding centerpiece pie seemed like an awfully high bar to set for pie No. 1.

As time went on, I saw she needed more pies. So, I took a chance, and I signed up.

I did some research, including lots of Googling, perusing cookbooks and talking to friends – you know, those friends who actually like to bake. And after several test pies and lots of lessons along the way, I produced a respectable blueberry ginger lime pie for the wedding.

While there, I had the pleasure of meeting a woman named Nancie McDermott, who literally wrote the book about Southern Pies.


I was nervous for her to taste my pie, but I took advantage of the opportunity to ask her for advice and guidance.

What’s the hardest pie? What’s the easiest pie? Where do I start?

She was so supportive and encouraging. And, off I went!

You can see the full list below, and here’s what I learned:

  • Fruit pies can be difficult to get just right, but custard pies are easier for me.
  • Having a book as a guide gave me both inspiration and technical guidance, and I read Nancie’s pie book cover to cover.
  • It was helpful to have her as a mentor. She kept an eye on my progress through social media, and I met up with her once about half way through the year. I knew if I had a question I could ask her.
  • Keeping pies seasonal or intended for special occasions made each pie feel special – even if it didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would.
  • Reminding myself that it was all an experiment kept the pressure off.
  • Telling my friends, family, and co-workers kept me accountable and made it a community activity. They stayed curious about my pie journey, and I think they enjoyed being a part of it.

Somewhere around pie No. 5, I was beginning to feel like I was gathering lessons from one pie to the next, and by month 10, I even made two pies.

Now, I still don’t like baking, but I found a place for myself in it.

Next time someone needs friends to sign up to bring pies, I’ll jump right in! 


This whole experience made me think – What else have I convinced myself isn’t for me?

What roadblocks do we insert in our lives without really looking at the map?

Often, people hear the word “Foundation” and they think, “That’s for millionaires, and I’m no millionaire.” Or, “I don’t know anything about philanthropy.” Or, “I can’t imagine what I would have to offer to a foundation.”

There are so many ways to engage with your community foundation.

  • We have affiliate foundation boards made up of community leaders all across NC.
  • We’re always looking for people to serve on scholarship committees in the spring.
  • You can have the collective giving experience through one of our giving circles.
  • Some funds engage community members - who aren’t on our boards - in advising our grantmaking decisions.
  • And establishing a fund of your own might be more accessible than you think! Have you checked it out?

So, do some research on our website.

Find yourself a philanthropy mentor in one of our team members.

If one way doesn’t seem like a great fit for you, try another, and keep at it until you find what works for you.

I’m still not a baker, but if I can bake 12 pies, you can find a way to engage with your community foundation and become a philanthropist.

Our doors are open, and there’s a pie in the window.


Leslie Ann’s Year of Pie

  • June: Blueberry Ginger-Lime Pie
  • July: Peaches and Cream Pie
  • August: Classic Chess Pie
  • September: Atlantic Beach Pie
  • October: Pumpkin Pie
  • November: Maple Walnut Pie
  • December: Cranberry Orange Custard Pie
  • January: Fruitcake Pie
  • February: Brownie Pie
  • March: Lemon Cloud Pie
  • Bonus: Apple Pie
  • April: Chocolate Chess Pie
  • May: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie