Every year Martha O’Bryan Center hosts an annual ice cream extravaganza showcasing cool, creative, and competitive talent from kitchens across the community.
The 27th Annual Crankin’ event will be Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. on the lawn at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. Live music on four different stages, inflated bounce houses, and endless ice cream flavors await all who support the Martha O’Bryan Center’s mission to serve families and youths in poverty.
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Several hundred volunteers include “Crankers,” teams who make and serve homemade ice cream, “Captains,” who promote the event locally, and more than 20 judges, who help Purity Dairy determine a contest winner. The outstanding recipe is chosen and produced at the Purity Dairy factory, then distributed to grocery stores for at least a year.
Martha O’Bryan’s volunteer coordinator, Adrianna Flax, said that on Sunday, volunteers will include the center’s staff, students involved in summer programming, Crankin’ Committee members, local churches, and those recruited through Hands On Nashville. With only six full-time staff members in the Martha O’Bryan development department, Flax and her teammates rely heavily on volunteer help.
“We would never be able to hold an event on this scale without our volunteers coordinating so many vital tasks,” she said. “And we are still in need of more volunteers for this year’s Crankin’.”
One volunteer judge, Priscilla Duarte, created the 2010 winning “Coconut Waltz” flavor that is still sold in many grocery stores across Nashville.
“This is a multigenerational event,” Duarte said. “Martha O’Bryan is a wonderful institution, and the kinds of things it does for the community are hard to argue with. This event really brings together everyone from Nashville all the way down to Franklin.”
A self-proclaimed foodie who spent much of her life in California, Duarte came to Tennessee three years ago, where she now attends First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, remains active in the community, and helps run the family business, Jam Coffee House on Wedgewood Avenue. This year, Duarte will be part of the judge’s panel, but in years’ past, she said, the process of creating a winning flavor took a lot of trial and error.
“I have grown granddaughters and then my daughter, and we all have opinions!” she said with a chuckle. “So we kicked around ideas, and we’d make a version. Then we’d adjust the recipe and make some more. It took maybe six weeks of tweaking.”
Another frequent competitor is Metro Council member, Burkley Allen, a member of Second Presbyterian Church and the mother of two-time champion Sarah Allen, who is currently working for a nonprofit in India. The duo helped create the winning 2003 and 2006 flavors, “Mango Madness” and “Mocha Brownie Avalanche,” but their mouth-watering efforts did not stop there. Inspired by her younger daughter, who recently traveled to France, Allen is entering this weekend’s competition, where she will sample her newest flavor “Inter-nut-ional Relations.”
“Every year we experiment, but this year, the secret ingredient is from France,” Allen said.
In the midst of so many divine confections, however, the main focus of all contestants, churches, and business sponsors, is the work that is being done at Martha O’Bryan Center, an organization that has been serving Nashville’s neediest residents since 1894.
Along with private donations and annual grants, the Crankin’ competition is one of only two annual fundraisers held by the organization to help provide funds for their vast programming. The center, located in East Nashville near Cayce Place, houses the state’s largest pre-K school, an emergency food bank, a flourishing commercial kitchen that supplies more than 500 meals a day for the needy, after school programs, job-training classes, GED classes and much more.
Crankin’s supporters, like Duarte, keep Martha O’Bryan’s transformational programs in mind while churning out their winning flavors.
“It’s really not about the ice cream. It’s really about what’s going on at the Martha O’Bryan Center,” said Duarte. “We all feel a need to reach out and help people. We’re not ever too far from poverty ourselves, or broken families or anything else. So this event, it touches home.”