Latrobe Senior Center volunteers make, sell noodles as fundraiser
The key to the popularity of noodles handmade weekly at the Latrobe Senior Center is simplicity.
The recipe has just three ingredients: flour, eggs and water. A 1-pound bag sells for $2.
“They're a good price, they're homemade, and you can use them for anything and everything,” said Moira Newcomer, who has been the supervisor of the center in the former 5th Ward School on Avenue C for two years.
The noodles have served as a vital fundraiser for the center since 1977, according to a yellowed newspaper clipping Newcomer took from a shelf in the room where volunteers Carol Malloy of Latrobe and Joann Watkins of Unity were preparing the latest batch.
“I came in to volunteer with the kitchen, and they said they needed help making noodles,” said Watkins, 72. She joined Malloy, 74, about a year ago.
The pair makes one batch on Tuesdays, which yields about 7 to 8 pounds of noodles. Another group of volunteers on Wednesdays makes larger batches. That group often has two or three community members who are in their 50s, and during the school year, they are joined by St. Vincent College students from a sociology class requiring community service.
“They have really been a lot of fun,” Malloy said of the students.
After combining the ingredients, the noodle dough is kneaded in a commercial mixer for 20 minutes.
Malloy and Watkins spread flour on plastic lunch trays and cut the dough into chunks. Then it is flattened and fed through hand-cranked roller machines and formed into strips and finally, noodles. Most of the batches are made into wide noodles, like fettuccine, but one machine also cuts thin spaghetti noodles.
The recipe has not been altered since it was developed years ago, except for one failed experiment in making whole-wheat noodles, Watkins said.
“We've never added anything to it, just water, eggs and flour,” she said.
The strips dry for 20 minutes on tables covered with white cotton tablecloths. Fans help dry the noodles, and they are flipped to remove moisture.
“Just a few minutes, then that air will blow them dry,” Malloy said. “If you dry noodles enough, like we do here, they'll last a long, long, long time.”
The pair said that when they work at the center, they gossip about grandchildren, recipes or whatever else comes to mind. On a recent Tuesday, they aired the merits and drawbacks of treating grass for dandelions.
“This is a fun place for a lot of people who live alone,” said Malloy, who often stays at the senior center to play cards after making noodles. “It's a nice place to spend a day. There's so many things going on, and everybody is so darn friendly.”
Noodles are available anytime the center is open or at the indoor yard sale in June.
Regular customers have even mailed the pasta to family members who have left Latrobe, Newcomer said.
The ladies suggest using the noodles for spaghetti or in soup, halushki or just buttered as a side dish.
One social club in the city has purchased 34 pounds at a time to make large batches of halushki.
Newcomer said the noodles are among many ongoing fundraisers for the center.
“It's a consistent income,” she said. “Without our volunteers, we cannot exist here. They're a vital part of our organization.”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.