MARYVILLE, Mo. — The First Presbyterian Church of Maryville was filled with a sweet, sweet spirit Saturday during the church’s 13th annual pre-Valentine’s Day Chocolate Festival.

Between 200 and 300 people attended the afternoon celebration of all things scrumptious and sugary, and no one appeared to be counting calories.

In addition to a positively sinful dessert buffet featuring pudding pies, fudge, cookies, candies and other treats, a large room off the church’s basement dining space offered dozens of packets filled with the festival’s signature chocolate-covered cherries and other take-home treats available for sale.

First Presbyterian’s pastor, the Rev. Jonathan Mitchell, said the annual dessert day raises about $2,000 for a number of ministries and non-profit organizations, especially the church’s Thursday evening Shepherd’s Kitchen, a weekly hot meal served free of charge to all comers.

Money raised during the festival has also been donated to the local Ministry Center food pantry and various disaster relief efforts as well as the Children and Family Center of Northwest Missouri’s domestic abuse shelter; Lettuce Dream, a greenhouse operation providing vocational training to people with developmental and cognitive disabilities; and Habitat for Humanity.

Spearheaded by the First Presbyterian women’s group, the event also depends on the efforts of numerous other volunteers who begin buying ingredients and performing organizational chores in late January.

“It’s pretty much all hands on deck,” Mitchell said.

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Staff writer Anthony Brown can be reached at or by calling the newspaper at 660.562.2424.