Why Wellington’s mayor wants to sell you homemade fudge and Amish soap

Part-Julia Child and part-Leslie Knope, Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig stood in her kitchen Saturday morning explaining to me how she makes fudge.

You see, Gerwig wants you to buy a batch of her fudge.

This is not your typical bake sale. At $50 per batch, the mayor is raising money for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Her team at Wellington’s Village Hall is in an informal competition with four other teams helmed by her fellow council members.

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Don’t want fudge? Gerwig also is offering Amish soap she made with her mother over the holidays. And there are some rules: If you have an item before the council or you are a lobbyist, you cannot order a batch of fudge or soap from Gerwig.

She said the goal is to get the community involved in the annual Western Palm Beach County Relay for Life, which takes place March 10 at the South Florida Fairgrounds and includes teams from Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves, Greenacres, The Acreage and West Palm Beach.

At her home Saturday, Gerwig whipped up a batch of fudge from a recipe she had found online by searching “easy fudge recipe.”

As she scooped and poured under the watchful and eager gaze of her 14-year-old dog, Holly, Gerwig told me how she became involved in Relay for Life. It began with a request from now-Greenacres city clerk Joanna Cunningham.

“That’s who did this to me,” Gerwig said, laughing. “I thought at the time, ‘Oh yeah, I can do something to help.’”

The issue is personal for Gerwig: Her father died at age 58 after a battle with gastroesophageal cancer. So when Mitch Winnik, a former administrator at Wellington Regional Medical Center, asked her to take over as chair of the event, she jumped at the chance.

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Fellow Relayers told me Gerwig was a great fit for the position. She made it look easy, as easy as her easy fudge, which on Saturday she quickly assembled. The ingredients include Nestle chocolate chips, vanilla, butter from Costco, sweetened condensed milk from Aldi and a pinch of salt. Then she pops it in the microwave.

“The hard part is getting the time in the microwave right,” she mused, punching the appliance’s keypad. “Basically we’re just melting the chocolate right now.”

Gerwig made cakes last year, baking and delivering them at $75 a pop. She sold nearly 20 of them. They were warm bundt cakes with gooey, cream cheese frosting that melted in your mouth — and on recipients’ doorsteps. That delicious cream cheese-based frosting did not stand up well in Florida’s spring heat, she said.

And then there was the cellophane.

“They took so much wrapping, and it would smoosh on the icing,” she said.

So while the cakes were popular — “Everyone said they loved them, and they were from a mix,” she said, smiling — the fudge is more flexible and will hold up better on those doorsteps.

It also will withstand the heat at Relay for Life, as Gerwig plans to sell her fudge on the day of the event to raise even more money to help pay for cancer research and local services for cancer patients, survivors and their families.

For American Cancer Society community development manager Lisa Noel, Gerwig’s participation is key to helping the nonprofit engage the entire village.

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“It means the world to us to have such a wonderful mayor who supports something that’s so near and dear to our community,” she said.

Noel noted that last year, Wellington’s team was the largest at the event with about 100 participants. It also raised the most money: about $10,000.

For this year’s event, Gerwig hopes other municipalities show up to play lawn games against Wellington’s team. She wants to bring the massive Jenga set that has become popular at many of the village’s events.

“I think we can get them to play us,” she said. “It’s a great event, and having a little friendly competition should be fun.”

And the fudge? It’s creamy and not too sweet, with just the right amount of chocolate to make this worth cheating on your New Year’s resolution to eat healthy.

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