GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A group of volunteers gets together weekly to make "Aunty Betty's Old-Fashioned Portuguese Sweet Bread." From left to right, Betty Ventura, Christine Valleta, her daughter Nora, Helen Silva, Destiny Mattos, Brennen Joaquin, Roxanne Friel, Geri Enriques, Jan Arensdorf, and Pat Cravalho all pitch in.
Aunty Betty no loafer
for St. Anthony
Her sweet bread raises money
for tuition scholarships
"Making some bread" takes on a double meaning for Betty Ventura, who has made more than a half-million dollars for Maui fund-raisers with her Portuguese sweet bread.
Ventura, the creator of "Aunty Betty's Old-Fashioned Portuguese Sweet Bread," gathers about 15 regular volunteers every Tuesday to make the bread that funds tuition scholarships to St. Anthony Junior Senior High School.
Ventura has been raising dough for 12 years with her secret recipe. She sells 180 loaves a week at $4 each, and they fly off the grocer's shelves.
A retired kitchen supervisor for Kula Hospital, Ventura will be 70 in September, "but I feel like I'm 21," she said.
"There's a battery within me that energizes me. When you do anything pleasing in the eyes of God and for a good cause, He gives you the energy and strength to continue," she said.
St. Anthony's has a special place in her heart because she is a graduate of the Catholic school, as are her children and a grandchild.
"I want to give back to the school that gave me an education and made me what I am today. I can help other children learn what I have learned," Ventura said.
She has made more than $50,000 for St. Anthony's in the last three years, and her group works out of the school cafeteria. Prior to that, she spent nine years, starting in 1990, making bread for the extensive restoration of the historic Holy Ghost Church in Kula, raising more than $500,000.
Judy Souza of Kahului has helped Ventura for nine years, while the rest of the volunteers have been with her for three. Most of the team are either graduates of St. Anthony's or have children and grandchildren attending the school.
Donating their time is a lot of fun and their end-of-the-day reward is a big meal made by Ventura's niece, Lavina Day.
Bill Cravalho is in charge of the ovens, and the only other man in the group is Henry Martin, who mixes the ingredients together and sets things up before the women get there. The women roll the dough into balls and place eight balls into each pan.
"I never baked bread in my life before" until he started helping Ventura, Cravalho said.
She taught Cravalho how to keep track of the baking time for three ovens using a blackboard, but after a month, "I can tell just by looking" to see if the crust has reached just the right shade of brown, Cravalho said. "The smell is terrific!"