Del Mar resident sells pies to provide food for people with HIV/AIDS or cancer

By Kristina Houck

Del Mar resident Marion Perlman began volunteering as a Girl Scout. Now, instead of selling cookies, she’s selling pies.

At 87, she is the oldest and frequent top seller for Mama’s Kitchen annual pie sale. Funds raised benefit the nonprofit organization, which delivers free healthy meals to San Diegans with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

“I do it for the satisfaction of helping people who aren’t in as good a circumstance as I am,” said Perlman, who has lived in the community for 20 years.

The ninth annual Mama’s Pie in the Sky Thanksgiving Bake Sale kicked off Oct. 7 and runs through Nov. 24. Perlman has almost reached her 90-pie goal, already selling 84 pumpkin, apple, Dutch apple and pecan pies. Last year, she sold about 100 pies and raised roughly $2,000.

“She’s an amazing volunteer,” said Executive Director Alberto Cortés. “She’s a go-getter.”

Every year, Perlman starts off by contacting everyone who purchased a pie from her the previous year.

“Then I call my doctor, I call my dentist, I call my accountant,” said Perlman, as she laughed. “I go through my Rolodex and I hit them all.”

One pie buys six meals for a Mama’s Kitchen client. Last year, Mama’s Kitchen delivered three meals a day, seven days a week, to nearly 1,400 people living in San Diego County.

“Our ability to do that is because of the engagement of the community, in every aspect, from making individual contributions to volunteering,” Cortés said. “That’s why we’re able to do what we do.”

Perlman has volunteered at Mama’s Kitchen for 17 years.

After her children lost a friend who died from AIDS, Perlman began transporting meals every week from the kitchen in downtown San Diego to a church in Oceanside for North County clients. In addition to selling and distributing pies, she continues to help prepare and package meals every Wednesday.

Volunteers like Perlman run the organization, which was founded in 1990.

Mama’s Kitchen has 14 paid employees, including three part-time employees, and about 900 volunteers, Cortés said. Last year, volunteers worked more than 30,000 hours and traveled about 120,000 miles to deliver food throughout the county three times a week, he added.

“The volunteers are absolutely a critical piece of our operation,” Cortés said. “They’re the heart of our organization.”

Pumpkin and traditional apple pies cost $20 each. Pecan pies and the newly added Dutch apple flavor cost $25 each. Pies are available for pick-up Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, at Mama’s Kitchen and more than 20 Wells Fargo branch locations.

“Everybody who lives in the community knows about Mama’s Kitchen or knows someone who has been helped by Mama’s Kitchen,” Perlman said. “It’s not a hard sell.”

To purchase a pie from Perlman, visit

For more information about Mama’s Kitchen, visit