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As Lent arrives, so do the fish fries that many nonprofits rely on for fundraising |
Valley News Dispatch

As Lent arrives, so do the fish fries that many nonprofits rely on for fundraising

Michael DiVittorio
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Highland Hose Fire Company Lt. Robert Stoebener fills a fish dinner order on Ash Wednesdayon March 6, 2019. The Tarentum fire company holds an annual fundraising fish fry through the Lenten season.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Fried fish and shrimp at the Highland Hose fire company in Tarentum on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Ted Zolna of New Kensington and Janice Ashton of O’Hara Township enjoy their fish dinners at Highland Hose fire company in Tarentum an Ash Wednesday. Wednesday March 6, 2019.

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. As such, it also marked the beginning of fish fry season.

Many local fire departments and churches will offer various meatless dinners and a la carte items every Friday through Good Friday (April 19) as a way to help raise money for their respective organizations.

Highland Hose in Tarentum is one such group. Its volunteer firefighters count on supporters this time of year to help offset operational costs.

“This is the largest fundraising event that we do for the year,” Highland Lt. Robert Stoebener said. “We really enjoy it. It brings the guys out from the fire department. We come a couple days beforehand and get everything prepared. A lot goes into the fish fries as far as man-hours and time and energy spent. I think we have one of the better fish fries around.”

This year, Highland Hose is trying something different.

The company opted for pre-breaded 8-ounce cod fillets. They’re larger than previous sandwiches the volunteers had to bread by hand. The company is also using fresh, preservative-free buns from Vibo’s Bakery in Brackenridge.

“The fish is good and it’s holding (the breading) a lot better than it did previously,” said Highland Assistant Chief Mike Coval, who works in the kitchen. “This is our sixth year doing it, and we’re hoping to keep it going as long as people come in and enjoy the food.”

Coval is assisted by about nine other volunteers at the fish fry.

Highland has a simple menu: A fried cod dinner with a cup of cole slaw and fries similar to those served at Kennywood’s famous Potato Patch. It also offers a six-piece fried shrimp dinner with the same sides.

Both meals are $10 and available for eat-in or take-out. Drinks are separate.

“We’re just trying to find our niche,” Stoebener said. “I know there are a lot of fish fries in the Valley. We’re trying to innovate ourselves a little bit more with the fish and compete with those that are out there.”

Fish fry planning starts about two months ahead of Ash Wednesday.

The company goes through about 40 pounds of food each Friday.

Cindy Hoak and her husband, Tom, both of Tarentum, support Highland’s fish fry every year. Their grandson is a firefighter at Highland and Summit Hose Co., also in Tarentum.

“So far, it’s not bad,” Tom Hoak said Wednesday evening. “It’s different. It’s bigger than last year. We live in town. It’s close.”

Cindy Hoak said she’s “not a fish person,” but likes the food at the fire hall.

“I figured I try it,” she said. “It’s not real fishy.”

The company made about $3,000 last year and hopes to do better this Lenten season.

“Your money’s going directly to keeping a vital community service open,” Coval said. “Nobody thinks about the fire service until you have to call them or get that letter in the mail for the fund drive. This is a fundraiser that we work hard for to continue to provide the service to the community.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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