Idea File: Pie-a-Day Giveaway

The idea

After hearing about someone who had written a thank you note a day for a year, Karen Amarotico from Ashland, Oregon felt inspired to do the same. Since waking up in the middle of the night over a year ago with the idea to say thank you with a pie instead, Karen has given over 390 pies to friends, family, and strangers.

Giving a pie a day away was Karen’s gratitude project.

“There is something sensual about the rolling out of the dough, peeling and slicing the fresh fruit, or stirring a rich chocolate pudding. All of these things seem to say ‘It took me awhile to make this pie, and you are worth every single minute,’ “ she says.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File


Karen isn’t the only one using pie to say thanks. Idealist staff member Ero Gray recently baked a pie a week for friends and family for one year. This is his Gluten-free Blueberry Cream Cheese creation. (Photo by Chris Machuca via

  • Brings joy and recognition to people through food. Karen says the best thing of all was seeing that she could bring a moment of happiness to someone with a gift of a pie. “It was a remarkable feeling and such an honor,” she says.
  • Small act that makes a big difference. Karen experienced many meaningful encounters through her pies, including brightening the day of a young girl with cancer who lived in her neighborhood. “What mattered most was that I had shown up,” she says.
  • Simple to do. If you have the time and resources to put into it, making a pie a day can quickly become routine, as it did for Karen.
  • Using your passion for good. During the course of the project, Karen, who had been baking for years, sometimes questioned her impact.  “I would get a thank you card or an email days or weeks later and would know that I had,” she says.  A few people gave small gifts and two people even made her a pie as a thank you.
  • Builds community. Many of the recipients of her pies were friends and family but before long she was getting requests to bake a pie for strangers. “In this way I met people who I never might have met and was able to say that someone else wanted them to be recognized,” she says.

How you can replicate it

    1. Have a goal and stick with it. The one-year timeframe helped Karen stay on track.
    2. Accept support from others. From the start her friends and family lent resources to help. Her friend bought her 250 pins. A neighbor made stickers for each of the pies. Her husband gifted her baking supplies. And so on. “I’d never thought about how I was going to get the tins. I just started baking!” she says.
    3. If you bake it they will come. Once the dough got rolling, Karen found that friends and strangers alike started recommending people to receive her pies.
    4. Take into account the person who’s receiving the gift and their needs. If Karen knew they had a sweet tooth she would give them a chocolate cream pie. For a busy mom, she would make a quiche that could be used for a quick fix dinner.
    5. Think ahead. Karen made pie dough in batches of eight, and had cheese pre-grated for quiche, which helped to cut down the cost of time.
    6. Set a budget. The ingredients for each pie averaged out to about $5. After adding in gas for delivery, the project cost her about $2,000 over the year.
    7. Start a blog. Karen’s blog has generated almost 30,000 views in one year with people all over the world reading her posts. “I thought that blogging would be a way to share my experiences and perhaps encourage others to begin their own gratitude project,” she says.

Karen continues to give away on average a pie a week and doesn’t see an end in sight. “I’m more willing now to go out of my way to thank or recognize someone even if I don’t know them. I think goodness should be recognized and honored in some way and am happy to do it,” she says.


Inspired to start your own gratitude project? Feel free to reach out to Karen for advice: karen [dot] amarotico [at] gmail [dot] com

Do you know of other projects that are fun and potentially replicable? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, leave a comment below or email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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