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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Floyd Valley's candy makers 'seasonally' busy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Betty Dutcher (center) joins Florence Heimgartner (left) and Shirley Hanno (right) as they wrap caramels for the traditional Floyd Valley Hospital Auxiliary candy project. Dutcher serves as a co-chair for the project along with Connie Toben, Ruth Kneip and Jean Gritzmaker. The complete candy-making process is shown in the photos section of this website. To buy this or any other photo from any Sentinel photographer's gallery by choosing Order This Photo.
Imagine if you will a grocery 'shopping' list with 80 bags of sugar, five cases of syrup, 35 to 40 pounds of butter.

Floyd Valley Hospital Auxiliary (FVH) members don't have to imagine the list.

It's a starting point this holiday season for the organization's 26-year-old holiday candy project.

Connie Toben (right) is joined by (from left) Elvia Nielsen and Vi Kellen as they stir up yet another batch of the traditional Floyd Valley Hospital holiday candies. Toben serves as one of the four project co-chairs for the annual fundraiser.
The candy making was underway last week in the kitchen of Presbyterian United Church of Christ, in Le Mars.

To coin a familiar phrase of the late radio commentator Paul Harvey the Tuesday candy-making is "the rest of the story" of the popular Le Mars created caramels, fudge and peanut clusters.

As reported in an earlier Daily Sentinel story, added fame for the caramels has come with the recent announcement by Wells Enterprises, of Le Mars, of the 2nd St. Creamery ice cream line-up.

Gene Toben, of Le Mars, carefully cuts long strips of caramel as a volunteer for the Floyd Valley Hospital Auxiliary. The strips will be cut into smaller pieces and hand-wrapped for the auxiliary's fundraiser.
Among the flavors is Copper Kettle Caramel inspired by the local FVH Auxiliary candy.

Betty Dutcher and Connie Toben, two of the four candy co-chairs said during a break from the candy making and wrapping activities last week the added national spotlight "is definitely being talked about" throughout the local community.

"Yes, we're excited, of course, and feel good about it," Dutcher, a 14-year project veteran said.

"We see it as good for the town of Le Mars, Wells and the hospital," Toben was quick to add. "It's a great way of connecting."

She and Dutcher who share their co-chair roles with Ruth Kneip and Jean Gritzmaker see still another important part of the project.

"It's for a good cause," Toben said, explaining she first became involved eight years ago.

Volunteers are among those donating candy-making supplies with both the local Fareway and Hy-Vee stores providing them at a discounted cost.

Dean Foods, of Le Mars, provides "some" of the whipping cream and sour cream used in the various candy recipes.

Ann Cole-Nelson, FVH's community relations manager, said proceeds from the candy sales help to support auxiliary projects as determined by members and the hospital administration.

"Our candy making is a good opportunity to meet and work with new people," Dutcher said with regard to the project.

Members of both her family and Toben's have also assisted periodically with the effort.

Local care center residents are sometimes also invited to "join in" for the pre-holiday candy making with residents seeing it as a special activity outside their respective residences, Dutcher added.

The co-chairs talked about the fundraiser while making candy last week.

Lively conversation was heard from the kitchen and adjoining area as finished caramels were being cut and wrapped, and additional candies were made.

Dutcher said the candy-making crew has welcomed the assistance of the men volunteering to help out in recent years with the "caramel-cutting" duties involved with the project.

Readying the caramels and other candy -- chocolate and white fudge and peanut clusters --can be a major task due the quantities involved, Toben said.

This year's holiday 'inventory' includes 220 batches of caramels, 70 batches each of the chocolate and white fudge and 75 batches of peanut clusters.

The quantity of candy needed is based on orders received, according to designated ordering deadlines.

The deadline for candy orders for Christmas is this Friday with candy pick-up Nov. 30 from 4-6 p.m. at Floyd Valley Hospital.

The candy will also be available at the auxiliary's Dec. 1 "Goodie Day" from 8 a.m. to noon at the hospital 714 Lincoln St. N.E., Le Mars.

Dutcher said the candy makers involved in the project select from the various duties they feel is their area of expertise or body ability Toben said.

Demand for the candy has for the past two years prompted not one but two candy-making periods including a pre-Thanksgiving as well as pre-Christmas rush of candy orders.

"We find more and more families getting together at Thanksgiving as well as Christmas," Dutcher said. "This way we can provide everyone what they want for whichever holiday."

The FVH candy is believed to have been first sold "by a bunch of ladies standing on downtown street corners of Le Mars" to take candy orders.

At that time, Dutcher said the auxiliary had 10 different candies available before a decision to "downsize" the order selection.

Toben said her daughter, Carra Haberland, Bloomington, Ill., is among the current caramel customers.

She explained that a sizable shipment of caramels is sent each year to Bloomington where Haberland's husband is employed at a personnel search firm.

Personnel at the company then bag the caramels and send to the company's clients.

Toben said she was pleasantly surprised when her daughter told her a Maryland recipient of one of the caramel gifts immediately wanted to know more about the caramels and where they had come from.

As to the caramel recipe, Toben and Dutcher said it was originally offered to the auxiliary by a long-time member of the group, Gloria Reed, who now lives in Florence, Ariz.

"Gloria always liked to make candy and made a lot of it," Dutcher said. "She said she liked this particular recipe and did we want to use it? We said we did and are glad to have done so."

Reed acknowledged from her residence in Arizona that she had as Dutcher noted "made a lot of candy" with the caramels one of her "favorites."

Reed added the Christmas candy making had been a tradition carried on from her mother-in-law in southern Iowa with other of the recipes used today for the project and also ones she had enjoyed making.

And do the candy cooks enjoy the candy after their day's work?

Dutcher allows a smile to accompany her thoughts.

"Of course we do," she said. "I always have to have a taste, too, while I'm here, to make sure a batch is good."

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