Sixteen-year-old Malachi Raymond knows he could have spent Saturday morning sleeping in like he usually does.

Instead, the Rockville teen found himself with about 50 other students in the cafeteria and kitchen of the Bullis School in Potomac, helping to make 180 apple pies as part of a Thanksgiving service project to benefit families in need in Montgomery County.

Malachi, a junior, chopped Granny Smith apples as he sat at one of five cafeteria tables devoted to peeling and cutting up bushels of fruit. All around him, students chatted and laughed as big metal bowls slowly filled with chopped apples and the smell of baking pies wafted from the nearby kitchen.

“I do it for the less fortunate, to help them out, because I want them to have a good Thanksgiving like I’m going to have,” said Malachi, pausing from his duties.

It was his first time participating in the annual tradition, which dates back more than a decade at the co-ed private school for grades three through 12, according to school officials.

The morning of pie making is the second half of a project funded by donations and run by the school’s community service club. On Friday, students filled 75 plastic laundry baskets with donated goods for Thanksgiving feasts, including $10 gift certificates for turkey purchases at Giant grocery stores.

Some of the pies will be delivered to Martha’s Table, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit providing services to people living in poverty. The rest will be delivered, along with the baskets, to the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, which will distribute them to those in need, project organizers said.    

The pie-making project is geared mostly toward high school upperclassmen, though a few freshman showed up this year. Teacher Laura Heninger, co-adviser of the community service club, said finding enough students to give up their Saturday morning is never a problem—even though these same students will start taking exams on Monday.

“It’s been a Bullis tradition and they tend to be eager about it,” she said. “A lot of it is truly because it’s just the Bullis community spirit.”

In the school kitchen, high-school teacher Sara Romeyn was in charge of students who were rolling out and slicing dough to place in strips on top of the pies. Nearby, Gualbito Mendez, one of the school’s chefs, slid metal trays of pies into large ovens, as other students stood at a table and tossed chopped apples with a mixture of melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. Still others spooned the apple mixture into store-bought crusts.

“This is everybody’s favorite—it’s how we blow off steam before exams,” Romeyn said as she rolled out dough and sliced neat strips to place on a pie. “A lot of my kids are staying for an AP review session after.”

Back in the cafeteria, the apple preparation continued as Julie Smith and Patricia Cohen, two of Parents Association members helping out that morning, made sure the process ran smoothly. “The funniest thing is teaching kids how to peel an apple,” Smith said. “Usually there is bloodshed.”

Even several of the school’s Chinese exchange students had shown up to help. Junior Zhengxuan Wu chopped apples, happy to participate, even though the project took time from studying and Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in his home country. 

“Even though we are doing the tests, I still think it’s meaningful,” he said. “I’m enjoying it with all my peers. And I’m doing some exercise, which is good for me.”

Julie Rasicot

Julie Rasicot can be reached at