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Lenten meals draw hundreds weekly to Mt. Pleasant parish

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
St. Pius X Parish in Mt. Pleasant serves Lenten meals every Friday through March 22 in its social hall. Kitchen volunteer Eleanor Lipko puts lots of homemade sauce on the baked ziti that was a specialty pasta of the week last week. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Every week, the first customers through the doors at St. Pius for Lenten meals are John and Charlotte Gonofsky of Mt. Pleasant, who come for the great food and atmosphere. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier

Every Friday evening during Lent, John and Charlotte Gonofsky can be seen sitting down for dinner in the St. Pius X Parish social hall in Mt. Pleasant, where they enjoy one of the homemade Lenten meals prepared by the volunteers and then served weekly.

“This food is delicious,” John Gonofsky said. “The food is good and the people are nice.”

“And all of our friends are here,” Charlotte Gonofsky said.

For nearly 10 years, the 30-plus volunteers prepare and serve the Lenten meals, welcoming hundreds of people who have discovered and now frequent the weekly meals.

“We didn't do very good our first year,” kitchen volunteer Eleanor Lipko said, adding that they only made about $800. “The second year we added the fish, and then it really took off.”

The volunteers start to prepare early, making the pastas ahead of time for the Lenten meals.

“We start in January making the pasta that can be made beforehand, and others like the lasagna and the baked ziti we put together that day,” Lipko said.

The parish serves both sit-down and takeout meals. Lipko said the number of diners has grown over the years to several hundred every week.

“Last week we did 447 meals,” Lipko said.

Volunteers help weekly with the meal preparation, serving, clearing and cleaning, with many finding the weekly event not only helpful but fun.

“I like to get out and see everyone,” volunteer Pat Stahl said. “I get to see people that I don't normally get to see, and it's a nice social time. I enjoy it thoroughly.”

Members of the church youth group also are active with the meals, serving coffee and dessert and helping in any way they can.

“I like volunteering,” said Emily Sestak, 13. “I think it's fun.”

“I come because I like to help,” volunteer Sylvia Dawson, 11, said.

Youth minister Toni Chovanec said she encourages the members to be active in community events.

“I think that it's important for them to come out and volunteer,” Chovanec said. “This is a nice opportunity for them to get out and help people in the community.”

The meals are served in-house or can be picked up for takeout, but all takeout orders are done as in-house.

“You have to come and get a ticket,” Lipko said. “You can't call and place an order.”

The meals are being served every Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., through March 22 in the St. Pius social hall on Summit Street.

Fried and baked fish dinner with coleslaw, vegetable, macaroni and cheese, garlic breadsticks, drink and dessert are served every week; the pasta choice changes weekly. The pasta meals include specialty pasta of the week, salad, vegetable, garlic breadsticks, drink and dessert.

Pasta meals are $9 each; fish dinners are $10 each. Child-size meals with lower prices are available.

Upcoming pasta selections will be stuffed shells on Friday; homemade gnocchi, March 8; cheese lasagna, March 15; and homemade ravioli, March 22.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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