Simply just because: Grace drives Rise Up! pie giveaway


By Jeff Keeling

Deja Story’s drawing hand had gotten plenty of practice by the time she turned her attentions to yet more cardboard pie boxes Monday at Rise Up!’s Refuge on Millard Street. Considering that Rise Up! members were preparing to give away 1,000 pumpkin pies today – “simply just because,” Executive Director Michael Marion said – her artistic skills were going to get plenty of practice.

The “Great Pumpkin Pie Giveaway” today is the brainchild of Marion, whose organization seeks to “holistically love, influence and inspire 500 under resourced kids to be prepared for life through small groups, after school programs and individual mentoring.”

One way he hopes to equip Rise Up! kids, Marion said, is by teaching them to give, “and there’s no better way to do that than by giving them opportunities to give.”

Three years ago, Marion and crew made 25 pies at Rise Up! and gave them away. The idea marinated for another year, then last year Marion asked his board whether he could cook up a scheme to make 1,000 pies and give them away.

“Every once in awhile, they give me one of those, ‘okay, go do one of your crazy things,’” Marion said. “This is one of them.”

Why pie? While he said he fully understands the good of giving out food baskets, that fulfills a need.

“This is not a need. This is just, suddenly, unexpectedly, there it is.”

Crews have been making pies at First Presbyterian and University Parkway Baptist churches’ commercial kitchens this week. Elementary and middle schoolers have been decorating the boxes. And today, chaperoned groups of older kids will hit the neighborhood around Rise Up!, as well as other overlooked and senior-dominated neighborhoods.

“If we see someone at a bus stop, we’ll give it to them,” Marion said. “Convenience store workers – they’re fun people to give pies to.”

Responses vary. “Some people have cried, and some offer you money (it’s not accepted). We get lots of different reactions. Some folks refuse. We don’t ask why, because when you’re giving gifts the person either accepts it or doesn’t.”

Marion remembers growing up poor in Hancock County, and only getting pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day because that’s when his grandmother would make it. His uncles would visit, “like they were supposed to,” but a lot of times that meant just one piece of pie for young Michael.

“I always say, ‘well, everybody ought to have their own pie.’”

And does that apply to Michael Marion, the Mentoring Man? Yes, he said.

“I make my own, so I don’t have to share it.”

Learn more about the giveaway and about Rise Up! at


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