Homemade Holiday Treats Bring Christmas Joy, Support Hobo Art Gallery | Community

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Rob Hillesland Summit-Tribune

There were so many holiday treats that were all homemade. What could be better? All proceeds from the sale of delicious homemade pies, breads, cookies, bars, sandwiches and scoops of treats support Britt’s Hobo Art Gallery.

The friendly faces of some members of the non-profit gallery’s board of directors greeted local shoppers at the Britt Food Center throughout the afternoon of December 18. Others have also filled more than two dozen pre-orders. They found many takers for their good vacation cause.

Sisters Britt and gallery board members Sandye Bednarz and Sharon Stromer greeted guests as they entered the grocery store mid-afternoon. Bednarz is currently vice chairman of the board and Stromer as secretary.

“We’ve made pies for other things before, but this is the first time we’ve made so many gift boxes,” Bednarz said. “We made pies for the Britt Food Bank the week before Thanksgiving. We were really lucky to be able to help them. Two nonprofits working together in Britt were a good thing.

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She said gallery board member Deb Specht from Algona, along with Peg Shellenberg from Algona, made 40 Thanksgiving pies.

“This time, I baked the pies,” Bednarz said. “We first moved here at Britt Foods because of our hometown pride. What better place to greet people than at the local grocery store? (Store owners) Darin and Jackie Eckels have been wonderful. They told us we could go further inside if it was too cold in here, but we’re fine.

The holiday treats extended far beyond cherry, apple and pumpkin pies, to apple and nut loaves of bread baked by family friend Jan Ulses de Joice, to the long-standing family recipe for homemade oatmeal cookies owned by their mother, Leanne Castillo de Britt. Other goodies included baklava, monster and sugar cookies, Rice Krispy bars with chocolate frosting, chocolate-coated peanut butter sandwiches, chocolate-coated peanut butter balls, and mini pecan pies.

“We loved Mom’s oatmeal cookies throughout our childhood and we still do today,” Stromer said. “She probably started making them 50-60 years ago.”

Britt’s Jeff Olmstead, arms full of grocery bags, said he couldn’t help but buy a box of homemade Christmas goodies as he walked out of the store.

“It’s Christmas and it’s something different that will help make people happy and support a great cause,” Olmstead said. “Christmas is only once a year.”

Castillo is also the artist whose paintings are spread throughout the gallery, the two girls said with a glint in their eyes.

“The Hobo Art Gallery contains portraits of all crowned Hobo kings and queens since 1900,” Bednarz said. “It’s a treasure with all the portraits. There are currently 73 portraits. Mom paints them all. She has been painting for over 70 years.

Stromer agreed that their mother’s paintings are inspiring.

“She’s very talented,” Stromer said. “She had 30 portraits placed in a hospital museum in London known as Leanne Castillo’s Hobo Kings and Queens Folk Art Show.

Much of Castillo’s work includes other Hobo arts such as Hobo train riders as well as landscapes and paintings of inanimate objects in oils, watercolors, and painting materials.

The Hobo Art Gallery, located at 42 Main Avenue North, has been in existence for approximately four years. The sisters said the fundraising is needed for overhead costs and helps keep the lights on and the doors open for the benefit of the community. The gallery is expected to be closed to the public for holidays until March 16, 2022. However, Bednarz noted that people can call and make an appointment to visit.

Britt’s long-time resident and retired Licensed Practical Nurse, Castillo has painted portraits of past National Hobo Convention royalty and treasured pieces of local history since 1983.

“There is a lot of wall space and a lot of easels, but the existing wall space is pretty much covered,” Bednarz said. “It used to be a coffee bar and there is only the space in front of the coffee bar counter now. It’s awesome when you walk through the gallery. Children love it. More parents should bring their children. It’s our heritage and that’s why we support the Hobo Art Gallery.

Rob Hillesland is the community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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