Make yours a smashing success as a fundraiser, while preserving family history

by Karen Luna Ray

What’s to eat? Have you ever noticed the amount of attention given the menu when your family gathers? With food invariably listed as one of the top three items on any hostess or reunion planner’s list, it is little wonder that the sale of family cookbooks has become a popular way to raise funds for reunions.

Donna Coffey, co-planner of Luna/Looney family Reunions in Oklahoma, put her energies into compiling a family cookbook with the intention of offsetting reunion costs with proceeds from sales. She announced recipe gathering in reunion invitations. Included on the invitation was information about the cookbook along with a request that each family send their favorite recipes.

Recipes trickled in. When the deadline neared and some family units were not represented in the cookbook, calls were made to give them another chance to include their recipes.

Copy paper was donated to print cookbooks and Coffey opted to make the cookbook 8 1/2 by 11″, the size of a standard sheet of paper. She printed a master copy from her computer then photocopied from the master to compile the books. A local print shop used colored card stock to print front and back covers and bound the books with plastic binding for easy opening.

Exceeding expectations, the 50 cookbooks available at the reunion sold within the first hour. Coffey went home with orders for several copies to mail. Almost every family unit went home with cookbooks for mom and each of the daughters/daughters-in-law. Others bought cookbooks as gifts for family members who did not attend the reunion.

Besides being popular fundraising items, family cookbooks serve as an important medium for preserving your family’s history. As any genealogist can tell you, finding little tidbits of family information can be a godsend. In addition to giving the cookbook a nice touch, including some facts about the person furnishing the recipe may provide welcome information for future generations, as well.

Coffey personalized her family’s cookbook by adding lineage, as well as the name of the person furnishing a recipe. Bits of family information are found throughout. The recipe titled Mrs. Caldwell’s Old-Fashioned Nut Cake was passed to the cook by her mother-in-law. A notation shown on another is “This recipe is our favorite apple cobbler. We ask Aunt Thelma to bring it to all our family gatherings.” The Oatmeal Boil Cookies are noted to be like ones served at Swink School Cafeteria (at least 50 percent of these reunion-goers attended the Swink School as children). The Spicy Apple Cobbler came from a recipe handwritten by Lou Luna, wife of John Luna, from whom all the Luna reunion attendees are descended.

Consider planning a cookbook for your next reunion. Include recipes from all family units and ask them to share any extra information they have about the origin of the recipe. Preserve bits of your family’s history and recapture those wonderful tastes from your childhood family gatherings. With the added benefit as a fundraiser, your cookbook has purpose and you’ll have a smashing success on your hands!

About the author
Karen Luna Ray has enjoyed the joys and trials of family reunion planning for more than a decade. Ray’s published work includes a variety of articles dealing with family matters and several articles in Reunions magazine. She can be reached at


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