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Updated 35 minutes ago
Fish fry signs popped up across the Alle-Kiski Valley on Sunday in bright colors rivaling Easter eggs.
For most Christians, Ash Wednesday this week starts the 40-day Lenten season and prepares them for Easter Sunday on April 16. It's just fish-fry time for everyone else.
Numerous veterans groups and fire departments are joining churches to prepare for Lenten fish fries to raise money and community spirits.
Lower Burrell American Legion officer Clair Ewing said the weekly meals raise money that helps the post give back to the community and its veterans. The post is preparing a special Sept. 11 memorial with steel from destroyed buildings in New York and more.
“We're about two-thirds of the way on that. Wait until you see the two eagles,” he said.
John Smicik directs fish fries at Trinity United Christian Church, located on Garvers Ferry Road in Lower Burrell.
“It's a fundraiser and outreach,” he said.
People will be available at the weekly meals to answer questions about Christianity.
“We're a small congregation in a big church who want to help,” Smicik said.
Chris Markuzic, president of the Bell Township Volunteer Fire Department, said the group will sell 1,400 to 1,500 dinners to raise money for operating expenses.
A whopping 2,000 meals will be served by Parks Township volunteer firefighters, said second Assistant Chief Joel Brown. Complete meals with side dishes, hush puppies, desert and drinks are all available for one price.
“We will put the revenue into the building fund, truck maintenance and replacing gear as needed,” he said.
Team effort returns
What do 35 volunteers do after breading 600 pounds of fish? They finalize plans for Wednesday's fish fry and others at St. Victor Parish in the Bairdford section.
St. Victor and Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church members have held joint Lenten season fish fries for eight years.
“We hope it's enough for this Wednesday and Friday,” said Bob Eaton of Saxonburg Road, who helped bread fish and will be doing some of the frying.
The average age of Sunday's prep team was well past 65, but teenagers will have a special role seating and serving eat-in customers and helping with take-out orders, said George Cingle, 81, a retired engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, and George Tymas, 88, a telephone equipment retiree.
The men met last Thursday and once a week when weather allows to play nine-holes of golf. But during Lent they volunteer at St. Victor on Bairdford Road.
“We enjoy it. Great people to work with,” Cingle said.
Tymas, a Korean War veteran, said the activity is good and the people are nice, well organized and dependable.
“They're very dedicated,” he said.
Funeral director Bill Yanicko and his wife Gail, a nurse, are the heartbeat for St. Victor's fish fries. Yanicko said the churches will sell 1,200 to 1,500 meals a week.
“The volumes are absolutely amazing,” he said.
In addition to 600 pounds of fried fish, there will be 100 to 125 pounds of baked fish and hundreds of orders of orders of shrimp, crab cakes, french fries and oysters, gallons of New England clam chowder along with haluski, deluxe sandwiches with fries on top, macaroni and cheese, pierogies, applesauce and green beans.
Fish fries are important because they are an annual community event, Yanicko said. It's good for winter-tired people to get out of homes, he said.
“We also hear people talk about greeting people they haven't seen in years,” Yanicko said. “And the quality of the food and the service are both very, very good. We want people to be able to make their orders, get seated and to have the food to then within 15-minutes.”
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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