Food And Fellowship

Every year for the past 16 years area residents have come together in observance of Lent at St. John Church of Jamestown to enjoy a fish fry.

The tradition continued Friday evening with the first of six fish fry dinners that will be held each Friday until March 22 from 4:30-7 p.m.

According to Mike Palermo, a volunteer who helped create the event 16 years ago, it was started as a way to build community.

“It brings people together,” said Palermo. “People come down to socialize and each year we get more and more who want to come help volunteer too. And, we have fun doing it, we really do. We’ve got a good crew who has been here for the past 15 years.”

Palermo started the event with his wife, Cosie; his close friend, Dave Spitzer and his wife, Beth; and Spitzer’s cousin, Tina Russo.

“We started it as a community builder and it skyrocketed,” said Spitzer. “When we started this we figured we would do between 50 and 75 dinners a week and some weeks we’ve done around 350.”

Each dinner is $9 and comes with battered fish, broiled fish or six pieces of shrimp, a salad, a roll, a choice of French fries or potato salad and a choice of applesauce or coleslaw. Also available is a combo dinner that comes with a smaller piece of fish and three shrimp or vegetable lasagna. To make the dinners all the ingredients are purchased locally from Maplevale Farms.

Kathy McMaster of Jamestown, who has been volunteering at the event for many years, said that she looks forward to it every week and thinks it is a great fish dinner that is probably one of the best around.

Karen Canfield of Jamestown attends the event each year because she enjoys the good food and good company. She came in with a group of friends including Carol Kirkpatrick and her husband Clarence who had never been to the event before.

“We’ve never been here before but we’re friends with Carol and Joe Lisciandro and we swim at the Boys and Girls Club so we heard about it there too,” said Kirkpatrick. “We also heard that it was really good food and good friends – you can’t beat that.”

Joe Lisciandro, whom Kirkpatrick referred to, acts as bartender for the evening. His wife, Carol, handles the desserts.

“It keeps me busy and I get to see a lot of my old friends,” said Lisciandro.

Josie Marcello, of Jamestown, who has been volunteering at the event for the past 15 years, said it’s a great way to see old friends and make new ones too.

“You meet all your friends and people that you don’t know you get to know because they keep coming back,” said Marcello. “It’s so nice to talk to different people who come from all over, that’s what’s really wonderful. You get a closeness here, so people mingle and are happy and not arguing or fighting.”

Ron Pappalardo, of Jamestown, who is in charge of running the dining area said that he does it because he loves to volunteer, especially when it’s for a good cause.

“We’re like a big family here,” said Pappalardo. “Volunteering gives me satisfaction for helping the church. Plus, it’s fun, but it’s work; and the older you get the harder it gets. But, we have a lot of good people and we all help each other. You know what they say, ‘You can’t take it with you, but you can send a little on ahead,’ and that’s basically what we’re doing here.”

The dining room, Fr. Billerio Hall, of St. John’s Church of Jamestown, is where a fish fry dinner is served each Friday. The dining room can seat up to 121 at a time. But, Palermo said the average number of fish fries sold each week is between 200 and 350. Last year a total of 1875 dinners were sold. All the proceeds from the event serve to benefit the church. Donations and tips are also taken to benefit a charity. Last year’s charity was the kidney foundation and the year before that it was the liver foundation. This year’s charity has not yet been chosen.

“During the season of Lent, Fridays are days of abstinence, which means that Catholics don’t eat meat,” said Deacon Sam Pellerito. “So, this gives them an opportunity to have a nice meal. I think it’s great and people enjoy it. Not only do people enjoy the meal, but they enjoy the fellowship. We open it to the whole community, to people who are not members of our parish or to those who are not members of a parish at all.”

Palermo recommends placing a take-out order between 4:30 and 5:30 to ensure a dinner is available. St. John’s Church is located at 270 Newton Ave. in Jamestown. For more information or to place a take-out order call 484-8554.