By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

By mid-morning Friday, the aroma of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods filled the halls around the Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School cafeteria.

Volunteers took over the kitchen for the transportation fund bake sale or "bierocks for buses," said Jeff Brull, the school's advancement director.

"It's a fun event," Brull said. "Everybody works hard."

This year, at least 60 volunteers showed up to make 250 dozen bierocks and 200 dishes of kuchen. Chocolate chip cookie dough, made ahead of time and frozen, also is available.

The bierocks' meat mixture was prepared earlier in the week.

Then a handful of volunteers like Brull arrive early to stir up a couple batches of dough before the first shift of volunteers come at 6 a.m.

Other volunteers arrive throughout the morning. Some stay all morning; others for an hour or two, depending on their schedule.

More batches of dough are mixed throughout the morning while other volunteers, such as Judy Schuler, cut out the dough circles where others placed a spoonful of filling.

It was Schuler's first time volunteering at the event and her first time making bierocks.

It was a day off from school for students and teachers, but some, such as freshman Ashlyn Pfeifer and her mother, Kathy Pfeifer, TMP English teacher, volunteered.

"It's a huge endeavor," Kathy Pfeifer said of the fundraiser.

She's never made bierocks before and was happy to learn how to make a bierock.

"My family at home is excited about it," Pfeifer said.

While the bierocks are being made in the kitchen, others work in an adjacent room smoothing the kuchen dough into the pan and ladling one of three fillings -- cherry, peach and blackberry, also known as Schwarzeberren.

"You can't buy canned blackberries, so they're donated by Jim and Susan Werth, Kathy Rohr and Dorothy Moeder," Brull said.

It was Carli Fischer's job to spray oil in the kuchen pans, so the baked goods didn't stick. Carli, 9, a student at St. Mary in Ellis, had the day off from school and came with her mother, Sarah Fischer.

"I work at the (Hays) hospital, so I bring my daughter (Shaylee Fischer) to TMP," Sarah Fisher said.

Sarah's father, Bob Leikam, teaches junior high social studies and is vice principal, and her mother, Trudy Leikam, is a cook at the school.

Lee Staab, a 1954 graduate of TMP forerunner St. Joseph's Military Academy, volunteered for the first time this year. He's looking forward to when his grandchildren, ages 7 and 10, likely will be TMP students.

He doesn't cook at home, but had no trouble with his assigned job sprinkling the topping on the pans of kuchen.

"It's pretty basic," he said.

Sandy Losey and the school's kitchen staff coordinate the volunteers and cooking event.

It's usually easy to get volunteers, but the 6 a.m. shift sometimes poses challenges, Losey said.

George Gatschet, a 1957 graduate of SJMA, was on clean-up duty for dishes and counters.

Gatschet volunteers not only for the fundraiser, but "he volunteers in the kitchen almost every day," Brull said.

Still more volunteers came in the afternoon to package the baked goods for pick up by those who ordered them.

All of the money raised goes to the school's transportation fund. Brull wasn't sure how long the school has been having the fall fundraiser, but it replaced fundraising breakfasts that had been taking place for the purpose.

"Every year the process gets better," he said. "A lot of the same people volunteer."

Last year, the project raised approximately $8,000. Using money from the fund, the school added two new 14-passenger buses last year.

"That way, we don't have to use the big buses," Brull said. "It gives us flexibility."