By Robert Gillis
Here’s a recipe for success: Take a quarter ton of pancake batter, and add 24 gallons of maple syrup. Enhance with 5000 sausage links, mixed with 162 half-gallons of orange juice. Blend in 600 containers of milk. Mix with lots of butter and unlimited coffee. Now fold in community service, friendship, and hard work. Bake for five and a half-hours. Serves 1500-2000.
The Foxboro Jaycees Pancake Breakfast ran annually for twenty nine years and was incredibly popular throughout the community and holds a special place in the chapter’s heart. (There are a lot of pictures on the Jaycee website)
A collaborative effort between the Foxboro Jaycees (who made all the food) and Foxboro Youth Basketball (who sold the tickets, served and seated people), each March, nearly the entire chapter (really) would arrive at Foxboro High School very early and begin setting up six rented grills in the cafeteria kitchen. We would be making breakfast — for 1500.
In my early Jaycee years I marveled at the synchronicity of the event — veteran members all had their assigned duties — some people ALWAYS made pancakes. Other ALWAYS made the batter. Others worked the line, greeted people, served food, or cleaned up.
The pancake breakfast brought out everyone — it was a great way for people new to Foxboro to meet friends. Candidates for May elections were always greeting folks as they entered. I have vivid memories of saying hi to the late, great Mike Coppola and other community leaders on many a pancake breakfast morning.
The event was for a great cause — to benefit Foxboro Youth Basketball (FYBA) — a program open to kids of Foxboro and still running today (2012). It gives hundreds of boys and girls, ages of 8 to 18, an opportunity to learn and play the sport. The main purpose of the program was (and is) to teach basketball fundamentals to all participants and to have all players enjoy themselves while they learn. The program advocates and taught good sportsmanship, along with positive attitudes.
In the weeks leading up to that breakfast, the students would sell tickets to the all-you-can-eat buffet, and would serve as hosts/hostesses, and serve meals and do all-important cleanup. The Jaycees would make the pancakes, OJ, Coffee and sausages. And of course, we would need to sample the pancakes and sausages for quality purposes. 🙂
The year she chaired this project, Jaycee and future selectman Lynda Walsh told me that the Jaycees used a quarter ton of pancake batter, 24 gallons of maple syrup, 5000 sausage links, 162 half-gallons of orange juice, 600 containers of milk, and lots of butter and unlimited coffee during the breakfast. I was there — she wasn’t exaggerating.
About 1500 people would attend the event. All proceeds directly benefitted the FYBA — Money raised from this event was used to offset costs such as school gym rental fees, uniforms, registration fees and trophies. In general, we would raise about $2000-$3000, as I recall.
As an additional fundraiser, for several years we created placemats where local businesses could buy ad space.
Many folks were surprised when the project was retired after 29 years, but FYBA had other fundraisers and the event wasn’t needed that year, and manpower was slim on both the Jaycee and student sides.
A pancake breakfast is a huge project (in fact, at the time it was one of the “big projects” that would advance you one degree of Jaycee). It’s understandable that eventually it would run its course, but its end was certainly never due to our lack of affection for it.
Despite a valiant (and we mean really valiant!) effort by the Jaycee board to keep the project running, it just couldn’t happen — it wasn’t needed that year Foxboro Youth Basketball didn’t need it that year and wasn’t interested in running it, we didn’t have manpower… After 29 years, the pancake breakfast had run its course.
But we miss it.
Like the Haunted House, this was an event that brought out EVERYONE — new and veteran Jaycees alike, and many friends. I loved the craziness and frenzy as 50 or so Jaycees somehow made making 1500 (or more) servings of pancakes an enjoyable way to spend a morning. For us, it was like a big reunion as folks we hadn’t seen in a year would come by to help, whether by mixing batter, pouring OJ, or flipping a stack of pancakes. The late Vin Igo of the Foxboro Reporter would always be there to get pictures of the Jaycees making pancakes.
Like the haunted house, pancake breakfast was a shared Jaycee experience involving hard work and fatigue, but we all knew we were part of something important, helping the kids, making a difference yet again.
That Sunday, each March, was a day you just didn’t miss — even if you could only stop by to say hello or work an hour or two, the pancake breakfast was a wonderful, shared Jaycee experience.