WHEELING - It's not about the doughnuts, who made the doughnuts or who was getting money from the sales - it's about where the sweet treats were being made, according to the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.
Wheeling Park High School students who were making doughnuts for a local business to sell as a fundraiser had to stop their efforts because the doughnuts were not being made in a kitchen under permit by the health department, said Howard Gamble, health department administrator. He said the home economics kitchen where the treats were being made is not permitted.
A member of the public called the health department to inquire about the situation, prompting them to look into it, according to Gamble.
Assistant Superintendent Bernie Dolan said the doughnut-making is part of the class curriculum. But this was the first time the special education students made them for a business to sell as a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, he added.
"I think we're working on a couple solutions. We're working with the health department on the issue. One way or another it will be resolved," Dolan said. "It's part of our special needs program. It's part of the curriculum here - it's called the doughnut room."
Dolan said the doughnut making may be moved to one of the school's permitted kitchens, or they may decide to get a permit for the home economics kitchen.
Susan Haddad, owner of Later Alligator in the Centre Market area, said she was raising money for Autism Speaks via the doughnut sales, and she keeps a donation can out at her business year-round.
"It's sort of been a pet project of mine the last three years. We've had servers with autistic siblings and I have a friend who actually was in the program for years up there," Haddad said.
Because of the health department's action, Haddad said she believed she might have jeopardized the students' program. The fundraiser drew attention to the students doughnut making program.
Haddad said the day she was supposed to get the doughnuts she was told she could not pick them up. But the people who had ordered and were waiting for their doughnuts donated their money anyway, she said.
"I don't know what the rules are. I was hugely disappointed - very, very disappointed. I thought this was crazy. ... It got blown out of proportion," she said.
Haddad said she was charged $5 per dozen by the class to cover the cost of the ingredients. She charged her customers $10 per dozen to recoup her cost and gave the remaining $5 per box to the charity.
Gamble said the health department was not acting maliciously - and neither was the person who called the health department to inquire about the fundraiser, he believes.
"It's not about a doughnut. It's not about who was making them or why they were making them. ... It's about the area," Gamble said.