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Auntie Betty raises “dough”

St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School’s Betty Ventura, a Class of 1951 alumni, has made a world of difference in the Maui community.

We were proud to read that the island’s only daily newspaper – The Maui News – agreed, and selected Auntie Betty as one of five honorees for its annual People Who Made a Difference recognition.

Thanks to Auntie Betty and her Tuesday bread baking ventures, St. Anthony has awarded thousands of dollars in tuition assistance to dozens of students seeking an education at Maui’s only Catholic junior-senior high school.

Auntie Betty could be found most Tuesday afternoons at the St. Anthony cafeteria kitchen, wearing an apron and a broad smile and ready to pull piping hot loaves of Portuguese sweet bread out of the ovens.

The year 2015 is noteworthy for Auntie Betty because of her triumphs in overcoming multiple health challenges while caring for her ailing 88-year-old husband. All along, she’s been faithful in her promise to show up on Tuesdays to bake bread and sell it to benefit tuition assistance.

For many of us, Auntie Betty is priceless, not because of the financial gains garnered from sweet bread sales. The positive energy she shares with each and every person on Tuesdays motivates us to give back, to make a difference in our community, smiling as brightly as Auntie Betty.

This 82-year-old woman, who once was orphaned, makes an effort to engage with would-be buyers who stop by after seeing our handmade bread sales sign on the street outside our Wailuku campus. She engages with students and their parents to get to know them when they come to help out with bread baking and dish washing. Inevitably, someone shares a story about a celebration and/or a struggle happening in their lives. Auntie Betty reacts with a vow to pray for them, and on the next visit, she’s genuine in her request for an update.

Like so many of the 14 years Auntie Betty has been in the St. Anthony kitchen, she created a “following” in 2015. She welcomes snow birds who share her value of contributing to community, and with parents whose children have long graduated from St. Anthony but want to help in the kitchen because they admire and want to follow Auntie Betty’s model of generosity.

She has inspired our ‘ohana to do our best, and as a small gesture of appreciation, the St. Anthony Band dedicated one of its first-ever cookbooks in 2015 to Auntie Betty. Within two weeks of distribution, more than 400 cookbooks had been sold. Proceeds have benefitted the band’s spring 2016 performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the Festival of States in Washington D.C.

Auntie Betty contributed recipes for the cookbook, and she’s donated to our annual Strength in Unity Gala a “priceless” sweet bread basket that includes her homemade jams and jelly. This woman gives and gives!

In 14 years, the bread baking effort has garnered more than $350,000 in tuition assistance to deserving students, many of whom have since graduated and gone on to become our island’s community leaders.

The lives of the St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School ‘ohana and our Maui community is better today because of the difference Auntie Betty has made.