To help celebrate National Donut Day on Friday, June 5, Dawn Foods honored 10 retail bakeries across the country for their significant roles in making a difference to the local communities they serve. The campaign culminated on June 5 when the winner’s names were announced. Customers were randomly selected by raffle to be recognized by Dawn for the good they do.
The winning bakeries received a thank you card from Dawn, a Donuts for Good award to proudly display in their shop and on social media, recognition of their bakery and good deed showcased on Dawn’s website, and a $5,000 donation to the 501c3 charity of their choice.
The 10 winners are: Gibson’s Donuts, Memphis, Tenn., Mojo Donuts & Fried Chicken, Miami Fla., SmallCakes Baltimore, Annapolis, Md., DiMare Pastry Shop, Stamford, Conn., Pasticcini Bakery, Weymouth, Mass., Famous Donuts, Fort Worth Tex., Merritt’s Bakery, Tulsa Okla., Tortillería Sonora, Des Moines, Iowa, Miss Angels Heavenly Pies, Mount Airy, N.C., Cookie Cupboard Gourmet Dough, Valley View, Ohio
The following are collections of their stories, demonstrating how local bakeries can make a difference in their communities, supporting the mission of Dawn’s Donuts for Good campaign.
During the pandemic, Gibson’s Donuts donated 200 dozen donuts each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to doctors and nurses and to five different hospitals. All policemen, sheriff’s deputies and fireman enjoy free donuts while on duty 364 days of the year. The bakery also donates free donuts to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Gibson’s Donuts selected The Salvation Army as their charity of choice for the Donuts for Good campaign.
“It is better to give than receive,” the bakery’s owner Don DeWeese says. “It helps your heart.”
Started in 1967, the bakery changed ownership in 1996 when Don DeWeese purchased it with his family. “The bakery did 100 dozen donuts a day when we bought it,” DeWeese recalls. “The first day we opened back up from the pandemic this year, we sold 1,900 dozen donuts the first day. That’s walk-in traffic off the street at one store.”
When the bakery reopened this year, there were nearly 50 people waiting in line at 5 o’clock in the morning. Wild popularity has been a common theme at Gibson’s over the years.
Food show presenter and culinary expert Alton Brown showed up one day years back and became a huge fan of Gibson’s Donuts, calling it the best glazed donut in America. “We took him in the back in the kitchen, and he stayed 1½ hours,” DeWeese recalls. “He loved our donuts.”
In 2009, the bakery was honored when the city renamed their street as Don DeWeese Boulevard in Memphis.
The bakery was forced to shut its doors on March 21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained closed for eight weeks. But soon, son Britton had an idea. “’We’ve got all this product, and I think we need to donate donuts three days a week,’ he told me,” Don said. Over the next five weeks, the bakery made 200 dozen donuts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and gave them out to those in need. It was a noble gesture. “We thought it was the right thing to do,” he says.
What makes Gibson’s Donuts special are a couple of production techniques. They allow their yeast donuts to rise three times, so the finished product is light and airy. In addition, the bakery glazes their donuts on both sides. “That glaze of ours makes the donuts fresher,” he says. “It’s pretty impressive.”
DeWeese credits the marketing creativity of his son Britton for ongoing programs like their Donut of the Month. They’ve successfully done red velvet with cream cheese, maple bacon, Oreo chips with white icing, and more. Their buttermilk ball is a local favorite. “We make our own white and chocolate icing,” DeWeese says. “That’s available every day.”
Part of a close community in South Florida, Mojo Donuts in September 2017 first met with the Live Like Bella® Childhood Cancer Foundation that, although is based in Miami, provides support to families around the world whose children are battling cancer. The foundation is named after a young girl named Bella Rodriguez-Torres who lost her battle to cancer at the age of 10.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month when Live Like Bella® hosts an epic gala known as Bella's Ball. Mojo Donuts was approached to see if the bakery could prepare 600 s'mores donuts to honor her at the event.
“We said absolutely, but we knew we wanted to do more,” owner Jimmy Piedrahita recalls. “Bella deserved her very own donut, not just on the night of the event but for the weeks to follow. Together we created the first ever Bella's Donut, complete with red sprinkles (Bella's favorite color) and gold flakes (representing Childhood Cancer Awareness). As soon as the donuts hit the shelves hundreds of supporters in the community came together to enjoy this unique creation and we donated 100 percent of the proceeds to the foundation.”
Every September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month begins an annual initiative to raise awareness and funds to help support pediatric cancer research and treatment. “We could not have found a better charity to support,” Piedrahita says.
Started in 2016 and working with Dawn Foods since the beginning, Mojo Donuts is inspired to make gourmet donuts based on traditional desserts from all over the world. National Donut Day is their Super Bowl. They unveil a custom donut and do big promotions.
Owned by Jimmy Piedrahita and Willie Munoz, who worked with Mojo Donuts founders to expand from the original coffee house location to make it the growing business it is today, Mojo Donuts prides itself on having the best gourmet donuts in town.
Mojo Donuts has been able to achieve real success with this formula for partnership. They are the first and only donut shop, for example, to be featured on the Food Network’s show Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
The Miami bakery has quadrupled in size over the past four years, and Piedrahita says it has been nothing short of a blessing. The bakery won’t sell a day-old donut. Instead, they donate all products at the end of the day to charities and those in need. “In giving,” Piedrahita says, “is where you truly receive.”
Mojo Donuts has remained open during the COVID-19 crisis, as “our team and family members made the decision that we are going to be there for our employees.” They put their best foot forward with sanitation and cleaning “above and beyond” the call of duty. They worked in partnership with Dawn Foods to move forward.
“With a partner like Dawn Foods standing beside us, we are moving forward with our local community,” he says. “We haven’t yet scratched the surface of our potential.”
Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, visited the bakery in June to bestow the honorary proclamation of “Mojo Donut Day” for the city of Miami on Friday, June 5, which is also National Donut Day.
In another honorary distinction, iconic celebrity singer and actress Jennifer Lopez celebrated her birthday last year with custom-designed JLo Golden Donuts from Mojo Donuts. “We did her birthday celebration by making a special JLo donut with gold flake shavings, and she walked out with a donut,” the bakery owner recalls, adding that her response was so positive that JLo’s fiancé, award-winning, former professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez ordered custom Mojo donuts for his birthday in July.
And since that time, the couple has kept ordering from the bakery for other special occasions. “She has really become involved in Mojo Donuts,” Piedrahita says. “We have had a very good relationship.”
Miss Angels Heavenly Pies
“It’s really been an amazing journey,” points out Angela Shur, owner of Miss Angels Heavenly Pies. “Our town is an old-fashioned Mayberry. People come from everywhere to try our fresh pie and Danish.”
Actor Andy Griffith grew up here in Mount Airy, and it’s no coincidence that a stroll down Main Street in the "Friendly City" still today reminds people of the town of Mayberry on the endearing popular ‘60s hit TV series, The Andy Griffith Show. Fans can visit Floyd’s City Barber Shop, the Old Mayberry Jail, and even Andy’s childhood home.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Angels opened seven years ago in downtown Mount Airy, making pie fillings from scratch. The fruits and berries were so plentiful from their own farm, they started a bake shop. Then as popularity grew, the family expanded bakery products and opened their sister’s Hillbilly Creamery and Gluten Free Bakery four years ago.
The Miss Angels Farm grows peaches, apples, pears, plums blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and other produce. Miss Angels Heavenly Pies produces pies, breads, Danish and donuts, as well as homemade ice cream from the fresh fruit.
“Right now, we’re really trying to get food to our customers,” Shur says. “People will not come out the way they used to, so you change your plans daily in this environment. You’ve got to think differently. We do online ordering now. Customers will order peaches and peach muffins in the same order. It’s all about customer service.”
The bakery works with charities including the Feed The Covid Frontliners Program for Forsyth Hospital in Winston Salem, N.C. And the Northern Regional Medical Center in Mount Airy, N.C. On National Donut Day, the bakery is giving away two free donuts to each of the COVID-19 frontline workers that go to the bakery. In addition, Shur opened the non-profit Touched By Miss Angel Charitable Trust in honor of her mother Angie Nolfo, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the last year.
“We are very involved with three hospitals now,” Shur says. “It is very hard work. When they see the pink boxes coming through the door, all the nurses really smile. It’s a good feeling.”
The bakery owner recalls how they fell in love with donuts once Dawn Foods made a presentation. “Their product is fantastic, and Dawn has been phenomenal in service. The quality of Dawn products is absolutely spectacular. Dawn has also helped us with our gluten-free bakery products. People really don’t know the difference between regular bakery products and gluten-free. I really owe it to Dawn Foods.”
DiMare Pastry Shop
Sabrina DiMare explains that DiMare Pastry Shop is a family business that dates back 44 years. She started at the bakery by age 11. She and sister Maria now have 10 grandchildren combined. And best of all, every day their parents come into the bakery, which they all call home.
“We live and breathe our bakery,” Sabrina says. “We are the salespeople, the cupcake makers, the delivery drivers. When we see people coming into support us, it touches our hearts every day.”
The retail bakery remains open during the COVID-19 crisis, but their wholesale business has been on hold. The retail shop is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
In 1962, Ugo, Bice, and Maria Letizia DiMare came from Minturno, Italy, in search of the American dream. Ugo brought not only his family but his skills and love of baking. He was able to open DiMare Pastry Shop in Riverside, Ct. in 1976 with the help of his wife Bice. Ugo always welcomed the help from his two daughters, Maria and Sabrina, who both attended College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y. Once Maria and Sabrina became involved in the bakery and their love of the business started to grow, Ugo, Bice, and the girls decided to expand the business and opened DiMare Pastry Shop and Café in Stamford, Ct. in 1997.
The DiMare bakery is involved with many community organizations, such as Kids in Crisis, Boys and Girl Club, The Yerwood Center, Soup Kitchens, Pacific House, YMCA, Center for Family and Children's Agency, Cook for kids, and Make-a-Wish, their charity of choice in the Donuts for Good campaign.
Working with Dawn Foods remains such a pleasure for her and the bakery. “If we have any questions, they give us different options on different products. They are always very innovative.”
Two years ago, the DiMare family met an amazing boy named Steven, who was diagnosed with a rare cancerous brain tumor in 2017. “He touched our hearts in the best way possible,” Sabrina says. “He loved to bake, and we invited him several times to bake, decorate cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. He came into our bakery in August 2018 and made a vanilla cake with vanilla custard and a buttercream that was named after him, Weevster 18. We carry his cake in store and we give proceeds to Make-A-Wish.”
When Sabrina first met Steven, she recalls how he had some healing rocks and one was shaped like a donut. It read, “Do-not stop fighting.” He loved cooking and bakery and receiving treats from the bakery, and they enjoyed special events like Christmas in July often. Before he passed away in November 2018, he gave Sabrina the healing rock. “He was a fighter and such a strong kid,” she recalls, knowing that she will never forget his influence.