Linda Bersche's passion is her work with the Norwalk Area United Fund. But next in line might be her cooking.
The United Fund's executive director shows her Italian roots through her cooking. For her dish, spaghetti and meatballs in a pork meat sauce, she makes meatballs much larger than a golf ball, because that's the way her grandmother made them.
"If you're gonna have a meatball, have a meatball," Bersche said.
Her grandmother, whose home often smelled of olives and freshly baked bread, also used to bake pizza in the '50s, before pizza parlors were on every street corner. She would use unique ingredients in her pizza sauce, such as calamari and lobster. And, being young, Bersche said she did not appreciate her grandmother's cooking knowledge and would, in fact, not always eat her wonderful cooking.
But some things did stick. Like her grandmother's take on pizza, Bersche's meatball dish has a few unique twists as well, including cayenne pepper.
"I like it spicy," she said.
But the most unique ingredient might be whole pork chops, left on the bone. When she is cooking in advance, as she was last Wednesday for a dinner with the St. Paul track coaches Friday, she likes that the bones will marinate with the sauce for a few days.
"I like it to sit and have the flavors meld over a day or two," she said.
Food will also be on tap Saturday at the Huron County Fairgrounds for the United Fund's third annual "Tool Time" event. The fundraiser, which generated $10,000 last year, is designed for contractors and small business owners to make contracts. For the $5 you can get three beverages, some bratwurst sandwiches and entry in a drawing for tool prizes every 15 minutes.
"It's an opportunity for the United Fund to connect with people who work in construction," she said, adding "It's also meant to educate the people who attend about who the United Fund is and what we accomplish, while having a great time."
The United Fund just launched its annual Prom Dress Project, which discretely provides area high school girls a prom dress at no cost.
"If a girl isn't going to prom because she doesn't have a dress, send them our way," Bersche said. "No one should not go to prom for the lack of a dress for crying out loud."
The United Fund also is nearing the end of its 2007 fundraising campaign, 85 percent of the way to its $301,000 goal. The campaign officially ends in July and the money collected is distributed to about 20 local organizations for 35 different programs.
"We have a very dedicated board really taking a good look at what's going on in community and saying 'What can we do to help the area and its people?' One of those things is to raise money for programs that will benefit our senior citizens, people with cancer, the youth in our town who participate in day care center, scouting, the Reach Our Youth program, and all the kids programs at the Salvation Army," Bersche said. "We're taking a look at the community from a big, broad perspective."