Sarah and the Chocolate Factory

by Carol Cool

Sarah J. lives in a chocolate house. Not the kind in fairy tales, with a peanut brittle roof and lollipop windows. Her father works for a candy maker in the heart of “chocolate country” (central Pennsylvania), which means Sarah grew up surrounded by top-notch sweets.

In the summer of 2009, Sarah visited California with her parents. She saw a lot of homeless people, and it made her think.

“We have a really good life,” Sarah said. “They don’t have anything. We should really try to help.”

Sarah decided to raise money by making her own chocolate, because she thought, I like chocolate; lots of people do.

Making candy can be easy if you start with store-bought chocolate chips. But Sarah wanted to make candy from scratch, using raw cocoa beans.

Her dad used his business connections to get 40 pounds of beans from Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Before they could start cooking, Sarah and her dad had to make their own equipment. They built special pans to roast the beans in the oven. Once the beans were roasted, they had to break the shells, pick out the cocoa nibs (the chocolaty stuff inside), grind the nibs, and slowly mix in sugar and cocoa butter for two days.

Sarah “tempered” the gooey chocolate by spreading it back and forth on a marble surface to cool, so it wouldn’t turn white as it dried. Then she poured the mixture into molds and placed them in a cooling tunnel in her garage. She wrapped the finished chocolates in foil, with a different color for each of the countries the beans had come from.

After all that work, Sarah discovered that the Venezuelan chocolates didn’t turn out right, so she couldn’t sell them. Although she was disappointed, Sarah kept her focus on the mission. She still had pounds of great candy that could make a difference.

Just before Christmas, Sarah set up a special auction to sell her chocolates. She raised $7,000 for a nearby ministry that reaches out to the homeless. With Sarah’s incredible donation, the ministry bought mattresses, food and medical supplies to help people on the street.

“If you think of something you want to do to make a difference in the world, go ask someone to help you,” Sarah said.

Sarah’s chocolates may be sweet, but her heart is even sweeter.

Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Photo © emilywjones/Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.