Christmas Eve pizza becomes a tradition

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Sunday, December 25, 2011
— Mary Hauri-Kleinsmith knows the power of getting your hands sticky with dough and sauce and cheese in the kitchen.

Each Christmas Eve for the past 10 years, she has brought that power to the House of Mercy shelter for the homeless in Janesville.

She gathers supplies and friends and leads the shelter’s residents—parents and children alike—through the steps of making their own personalized pizzas.

On Saturday, the shelter’s two ovens turned each person’s selections into a crusty, gooey dish that filled stomachs with food and spirits with satisfaction.

Mary got help Saturday from her son Jake Hauri and Jake’s wife, Brieann, of Valparaiso, Ind., as well as her neighbor Kris Hadley and Hadley’s friend Jodi Nickols, all of Janesville.

“This is my first year, and it won’t be my last. It was a blast,” Hadley said.

The tradition of pizza at the shelter on Christmas Eve started years ago, when Hauri-Kleinsmith lived in Eau Claire. She continued it when she moved to Janesville.

“Part of being in a hard place, especially with kids, is they don’t have control over anything. So I asked what they wanted, and that’s what they wanted (pizza), and they wanted one of their very own,” she said.

Hauri-Kleinsmith hints that her family once went through hard times, but she won’t say much about that. She seems to know how special it is for people who have next to nothing to be able to control even a small portion of their lives. That’s why she has every resident—parents and children—roll their own dough, choose their own toppings and assemble their own pizzas.

She knows at least some from past years who have continued making their own pizzas.

“It gives them a sense of accomplishment. It’s something you can call your own when you really don’t have a lot,” she said.

House of Mercy residents seemed to agree.

“The most special thing about it was they got to pick. It was their own,” said Fayette Foster, who is at the shelter with her son.

“I’ve been very lucky through the years,” said Hauri-Kleinsmith, who owns her own business, guiding insurance offices’ switch from paper to electronic record-keeping. “I’ve never had a ton, but when I’ve had a little, I’ve been able to give a little, and I remember how the little things meant a lot to me.”

Last updated: 7:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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