With the beginning of 2012, it is now almost a year and a half since one of the most heinous crimes in our community in recent memory, the pre-dawn murder of Alexandra Engler, who was gunned down during a home invasion in front of her 9-year-old daughter, Ariana, who was also shot multiple times by the gunman.

No doubt you remember the Beauregard Town killing in the fall of 2010. Often, I have thought of young Ariana, who has since moved away to live with relatives. How does a child recover from something like that? How does one ever heal?

There are no answers to those questions, but the community of St. Luke’s Episcopal School, where Ariana was a third-grade student at the time of her mother’s death, is hoping to create something lasting and positive in memory of Alexandra Engler. It is raising money for a memorial scholarship fund by holding a pecan pie bake-off for local amateur bakers.

The idea for the fundraiser came from Amy Whitley, St. Luke’s school head, and is a re-creation of an apple pie bake-off contest that she came to know of through Engler’s mother, Bonnie Hunt, who has hosted the contest for many years in her hometown of Holdnerness, N.H. It has become somewhat legendary in and around the quaint New England village where Hunt lives, and was even featured in a 10-page spread a few years ago in “Cooking Light.” (In the article spread, a beaming Alexandra Engler is standing next to her mom holding an apple pie, with her free hand protectively holding a very young Ariana close to her side).

Whitley visited Hunt last summer and the two have since become close friends. Hunt, in turn, has made several trips to Baton Rouge, and has established the scholarship in her daughter’s name. It’s a great start, but the fund is small and needs to grow.

“I thought a Southern version of a pie contest would be a good way to honor Alexandra’s memory and help build up the fund,” Whitley said. The contest will be called A Slice of the South and, like Hunt’s contest in New Hampshire, will be held at Whitley’s home here in Baton Rouge.

I cannot think of a lovelier way to honor the memory of Alexandra Engler, while helping her family and the school community heal. I also love that Whitley has chosen for her bake-off such a classic Southern dessert. Alexandra Engler had come to embrace the South, and loved Baton Rouge and her Beauregard Town neighborhood. This is a worthy cause and one we should all consider supporting. It won’t help soften the pain caused by the tragic loss of Alexandra Engler, but it will bring about something positive in a community that is still hurting, 16 months later.

The contest will be at 3 p.m. Jan. 15 at Whitley’s home, 5512 S. Woodchase Court.

For information, call (225) 927-8601 or email awhitley@stlukesbrschool.org.