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Knights of Columbus fish fry feeds first responders first

 080720knights firstresponders

Members of Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council 1347 use an assembly line system to package fish and shrimp dinners for employees at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart on July 31 as part of a First Responders 'Thank You' Fish Fry hosted by the K of C at St. Bridget in Hobart. All local police officers, firefighters and EMT's were also treated to a free dinner to thank them for their service during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Marlene A. Zloza photo) 



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      HOBART – When the COVID-29 pandemic stay-at-home order cancelled half of Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council 1347’s scheduled Lenten Fish Frys last March, the Knights quickly shut down operations at St. Bridget parish and froze the fish on hand.

      Last month, the Knights thawed out that pollack and perch – bought 400 pounds more – and put it to good use by hosting a First Responders ‘Thank You’ Fish Fry that offered free fish or shrimp dinners to all local police officers, firefighters and EMTs who presented an ID at St. Bridget on July 31. The Knights also packed up 250 dinners and delivered them to employees at St. Mary Medical Center.

      Civilians were also invited to satisfy their taste for a Catholic favorite by purchasing carry-out dinners at the school hall, where a full complement of Knights were frying fish, shrimp and French fries, packaging them up with cole slaw and condiments to serve the hundreds of patrons.

      “We wanted to show our appreciation for the first responders, as others are doing,” said Knight Bob Bush, who chaired the event. “They are going above and beyond, and we are part of this community they serve. The hospital is only two miles from our parish, and we thank them all.

      “People appreciate when you cook for them, and that’s something we can do. This lets the community know that the Knights are still here,” added Bush, explaining that a week of preparation included making cole slaw and portioning it into small containers, wrapping plastic utensils in napkins (accomplished by St. Vincent de Paul Society volunteers), and stacking boxes for the hospital delivery.

      Carmen Lenzo, who took over as Grand Knight of Council 1347 on July 1, agreed that as a community organization, the Knights are pledged to “support our priest and church and support our Hobart community.” In saluting first responders, “We just wanted to thank them for the hours they spend and the stress they are under,” adding that he has a personal appreciation for health-care workers after hearing stories about COVID-19 cases from his son-in-law, Eric Flick, a nurse in Grand Rapids, Mich.

      “We were sitting around after a meeting and felt we should do something for the people fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and helping so much,” said Knight Marty Ruzbasan, who helped load diners for the hospital and take orders throughout the fish fry. We are known for our fish frys, which average about 400 patrons on Fridays in Lent, so we decided to hold a ‘thank you’ fish fry.”

      Marge Gresser, a St. Bridget parishioner, stopped by to pick up dinners for herself, her brother and a friend. “I’ve been coming to these fish frys for a long time and its always good food and good seeing other parish members,” she said.

      “We started hosting these dinners in 1985, and we (usually) do it restaurant-style, where you choose from a menu and the dinners are cooked to order, Ruzbasan added. “Our dinners are very popular, but this year we had only three Lenten fish frys before we had to stop.”

      Suzanna Enslen, public relations representative for the Hobart Police Department, stopped by to pick up 20 dinners for police officers and firefighters and called it “very heartwarming and overwhelming that a civic group like the Knights of Columbus would come together to think of others in a time of uncertainty and show their support for the community and those fighting the pandemic and protecting the citizens.”

      Added Hobart police officer Matt Visig, “This is great, I love it,” as he placed a dinner order.

      Ruzbasan said Council 1347 usually splits its proceeds from fish frys between St. Bridget and other charities, including the Hobart Food Pantry, St. Jude House women’s shelter, St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Coats for Kids program, Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets for the needy, an Easter party for children, and The Gibault Children’s Services Home in Terre Haute, sponsored by the Indiana K of C. “This year, we agreed to give all funds we earn to the parish for its needs,” he explained.

      While he filled a tray with fish ready for frying, Knight Dan Barkalow said he was happy to help: “There’s a lot of camaraderie, a lot of people helping, and we’re doing something good for the community.”

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