Crabtree parishioners ‘cast wide net’ for fish fry volunteers

By Jennifer Miele

The smell of fresh fried fish and buttery pierogi waft through the air in the small community of Crabtree each Friday during Lent. Inside the local fire hall, more than 30 volunteers busily prepare hundreds of takeout meals to raise money for charity.

Many people select a “combo” meal, adding fries or coleslaw to the dinner. But this is really a “combo” fundraiser, with proceeds split between the Crabtree Volunteer Fire Department and St. Bartholomew Parish.

“Every year the Crabtree Volunteer Fire Department had a series of fish fries and the church had a number of bingos. With COVID-19 gathering restrictions, both organizations lost substantial amounts of income. So the fire department asked us if we wanted to work with them to do a fish fry, and we did!” said Father Justin Matro, Pastor.

“We thought if we got together and worked together as a parish and fire department, we would be able to bring in more people for a takeout fish dinner,” said John Rock, Vice President of the fire department.

The result, even with split proceeds, exceeded any amount of fundraising the fire department ever accomplished.

Father Justin said the money helps offset the cost of parish missions, but there are so many other benefits of the partnership.

“It is certainly an evangelical interaction. People feel the church’s presence here,” he said.

Many actually saw the church’s presence at the fish fry when Bishop Larry J. Kulick himself visited the event earlier this year. He gave a blessing to all the volunteers, to make sure each of them knew how thankful he was for the work they are doing to support the faith, especially during Lent.

The Bishop also enjoyed some of the fantastic menu items: fried fish sandwiches, broiled cod, coleslaw, pierogi and new this Lent, macaroni and cheese and halushki.

“We are supposed to do something to observe the day the Lord died on Friday, and abstaining from meat is a good way to do that. Throughout Lent we do that on Fridays,” Father Justin said. “Fish fries and pierogi sales all became great ways to earn money because people aren’t eating meat on Fridays.

“It becomes a fun event, but it is also something we do because of our faith. It’s a traditional Catholic festivity mixed with devotion.”


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