What began as a love of making candy for students and children in the hospital, turned into an all-out candy business in a matter of a few years.
Sister of Charity of Nazareth Margaret Regina Murphy, who taught at St. Agnes School from 1971 to 1989, perfected her almond brittle in her iron skillet. She made it on the four-burner stove in an apartment she shared with several other SCNs on the fifth floor of the former Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital.
Once the sisters tasted her candy, they suggested she could make money by selling it. In 1996 that’s exactly what she did, creating Candy for Caring. She ramped up production and donated all the proceeds to help the poor, sick and homeless, said Debra Kehl, a volunteer candy maker and member of Candy for Caring’s board of directors.
“The operation just grew from there,” Kehl explained in a recent interview. “They needed more room so the hospital allowed her to use a section of the main kitchen but they (the candy makers) ended up needing even more space.”
From the hospital’s kitchen, the group moved into a couple of nearby houses also owned by the hospital about 15 years ago. The hospital paid for and oversaw all maintenance, utilities and phone bills for the properties.
Until recently, Candy for Caring has had 60 volunteers who worked five days a week producing a variety of candies including fudge, brittle, turtles and bourbon balls.
In its 25-year history, the group has donated more than $150,000 — $30,000 just in the last several years — to local charities including: Dare to Care Food Bank, the Healing Place, St. John Center for Homeless Men, Active Heroes, Harbor House and Southwest Community Ministries.
It has hit some road bumps recently, though. Sts. Mary & Elizabeth, located at 1850 Bluegrass Avenue, was acquired by UofL Health Nov. 1, 2019, along with Our Lady of Peace Hospital, 2020 Newburg Road. The facilities were founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and more recently owned by KentuckyOne Health and CommonSpirit Health, serving throughout the years as Roman Catholic institutions.
Along with the sale of Sts. Mary & Elizabeth, the houses Candy for Caring used near the hospital were also purchased. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since last spring, Candy for Caring has been unable to meet and now the group is in need of a space to resume candy-making operations.
“We are seeking the community’s help to relocate to a new production facility with a safe production space and secure onsite storage,” Kehl said.
The group recently obtained its 501c3 status as a charitable organization (its status used to be under the wing of the SCNs) and hopes to resume production of its high-end confections soon.
Kehl said she’s proud of the organization’s commitment to support worthy charitable causes and said she has received far more than she’s given to the non-profit.
“Charities today are in more need than ever for money,” she said. “Knowing your work, your time and your efforts are raising money for charity” makes it worthwhile, she said.
And, she added, “the candy is delicious. Once you taste it, all other chocolates don’t live up to it.”
While the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are no longer involved with Candy for Caring, they still keep in touch with Kehl and sell the candy at the SCN visitor center. They also offer spiritual support, Kehl said. Sister Murphy passed away in 2017.
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