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Pie Ladies Make A Difference

Those little acts of kindness really do add up. A group of women known as the pie ladies in Mississippi have accomplished quite a lot with a little flour and some elbow grease.

The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy reports they're literally rolling in the dough (in more ways than one).

The sleepy little town of Gautier, Miss. is still mostly sleeping when the pie ladies start working their magic in the kitchen of the First United Methodist Church.

Smiling, Jean says it is fun to get up at 6 a.m. and go to church to make pies. Must be because every Thursday morning, for the past ten years, a gang of gals has gotten together to slice and dice, and to shake and bake.

The oldest is Clara Charlesworth at 84. Beverly Segerist, who just celebrated her 70th birthday, is the youngest.

"I didn't have to get shots, or get dipped, or anything," Segerist says laughing, "They just took me in and loved me."

Every one of them has a special role. Helen Lindsay manages the money.

Martha Peterson makes the peanut butter pies, and Jean makes the crust.

So what's the secret to a good crust?

"You can't handle it with your hands," Jean says.

But these morning musters are more than just a social event with best friends. Each and every pie is sold to raise money for charity.

Helen Lindsay says they have raised between $40,000 and $50,000. "We've given all of that away," she adds.

The group started when they were looking for a way to raise money for a new church building.

"And I said, 'Well, why don't we just make pies?' " Clara Charlesworth recalls. Jean notes the women all doubted it could work.

But when they gave the idea a try, they soon found the appeal was as old-fashioned as the pies themselves.

Donna Reiter explains, "Pies are a part of America. And they add a good time to any occasion. You can't go wrong with a pie, especially if it's a lady pie."

The ladies don't have bake sales. Customers simply stream into the kitchen. And with them comes the money.

Lindsay says, "We can't solve world hunger. And we can't solve health problems. And we can't solve this and that, but we can get someone who needs a pair of glasses, we can do that. Or if they need their gas bill paid, we can do that. So the little things add up."

Nobody knows that better than Nellie Kern, a member of the church.

"Four years ago," Kern says with a grin, "I needed dentures and I thought, 'Oh, I can't afford dentures.' So I asked Helen. She said, 'Don't worry about it.' So they paid for my dentures."

A big part of the money goes to the church's food bank, which supplies those in need with free groceries. Their pie money also helps a soup kitchen in nearly Paschagoula. Ernie Guggan runs the place.

"They're church ladies," Guggan says. "They're little church ladies. And they've got goodness in their heart - just bursting to get out. They do it with pie crust and pie filling. And they do it by helping to feed the needy."

Martha Peterson says, "This is our outlet, and this is our purpose."

Asked if it by doing it she feels great, she says, laughing, "Well, you're not supposed to feel good when you do something for God. You're just supposed to serve Him. But it does make you feel good."

Trying the pies, Murphy says the pies are really good, almost as sweet as the ladies who bake them.

Reiter notes, "You know, you don't think about 'Oh, today we're going to give something away.' But when you do, and you see the response, and you see somebody that's being helped, then you know you get a little warm glow down there where that pie is supposed to be."

The average pie goes for 5 bucks, though a few sell for as much as $6.50. And they haven't raised their prices since they started.

That, folks, is a lot of dough, any way you roll it.