‘Sister Schubert’ speaks at Troy Rotary

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

One simple pan of rolls made all the difference in the world for Patricia Wood Barnes from Troy, Alabama.

Perhaps, Patricia Wood Barnes is not a household name. But say “Sister Schubert” and somebody in the crowd will take notice.

On Tuesday, the Troy Rotary Club welcomed Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes back home. The Rotarians listened with open ears as Barnes shared the story of how she grew a business that began with one simple pan of rolls into a bakery business that makes nine million rolls a day.

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Just last year, Barnes was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. She was the only female so honored in 2018 and only one of five inducted into the prestigious business hall.

Barnes is also the author of three best-selling cookbooks but she was not at the Rotary Club to talk about recognitions that have come her way.

She was there to talk about the way one simple pan of rolls has changed her life.

Patricia Wood Barnes grew up on Flavia Circle in Troy, learned to make yeast rolls from her Gommey (Leona Wood), one simple pan at a time, and founded Sister Schubert Rolls in her home kitchen.

“Gommey loved to cook and she used family recipes,” Barnes said. “I loved to spend time with her in the kitchen and watch her bake rolls. I learned to love baking from her.”

Barnes said baking was her Gommey’s way of showing love to others.

As a young woman, Barnes began to bake yeast rolls, just like her Gommey. From church suppers to neighbor’s dinner tables, Barnes’ yeast rolls were the talk of the town.

“People enjoyed the yeast rolls so much that I decided to try to market them locally,” she said. “One local grocery story, Ingram’s Curb Market, gave me a chance. Then, my daughters and I would put on our lacy aprons and go around to grocery stores and encourage people to buy my rolls.”

Soon, Sister Schubert was on a roll.

The story of Sister Schubert rolls is more than familiar around her hometown and throughout much of the country. In 2000, she sold her company to Columbus, Ohio-based Lancaster Colony Corporation. Barnes remains the face of Sister Schubert’s rolls and is involved in product development.

But, there is more to Sister Schubert’s story than rolls. She believes that God has guided her path and gives Him the credit for any successes she has had in the business world. And God has put her where she needed to be in her personal life.

Twelve-plus years ago, she was attending a Rotary Club meeting in Luverne and heard missionaries for the Ukraine speak about the great need for places of safe refuge for the orphan children in the area.

Barnes was so moved by the plight of the orphan children that she visited the Ukraine to learn how she could help. While there, Barnes’ heart went out to a little blond boy whose feet were so clubbed and tangled that he would never be able to walk. When he was older, he would be put on the streets to make his own way in life.

Although Barnes and her husband, George, had four children, they adopted the little boy from the Ukraine. Alex is now 16. After many operations, he is a striker on his high school soccer team.

Barnes later established Sasha’s Home, a foster care facility for abandoned Ukrainian children who are awaiting adoption. One young woman from Sasha’s Home attended and graduated from Troy University.

“I never thought the plane ride to the Ukraine change my life in such as wonderful way,” Barnes told the Troy Rotarians. “God placed me there.”

Barnes said when she was a young woman, her Gommey gave her a red, vinyl notebook filled with her family recipes. Beneath the recipe for yeast rolls, her grandmother had written “Everlasting Rolls.”

“With one single pan of rolls, Gommey shared her love,” Barnes said. “I didn’t know then that those rolls and the love they shared is everlasting. That was Gommey’s gift to me and I share that gift in the ‘Celebrations from the Heart,’ cookbook believing and knowing that God’s love is everlasting.”

(“Celebrations from the Heart” features a collection of beloved recipes from three Southerners, Barnes, Betty Sims and Nall Hollis. All proceeds benefit The Barnes Family Foundation, N.A.L.L. Art Association, and The Sims Family Foundation for ALS Research.)