After Lenten fish fries canceled, food goes to Cedar Rapids charities

Three organizations receive donations

By Michelle Tressel

Special to The Witness

CEDAR RAPIDS — Knights of Columbus Council #5544, based at St. Jude Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, had quite a bit of food to donate after its 2020 Lenten fish fries were canceled due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.  The council’s first two fish fries of the season had drawn record crowds. Council members were prepared to accommodate record numbers again at their third event on March 13, but attendance was lower due to concerns about the coronavirus.  The following week, the decision was made to cancel the remaining fish fries – even before any mandates or recommendations had been provided by the Archdiocese of Dubuque or the State of Iowa.

“The decision was very difficult for us to make,” said Justin Roberts, Grand Knight of Council #5544, “because we know how much the community enjoys fellowship and a chance to get together with the family on a weekly basis.  Plus, these events are some of the biggest fundraisers for our council and help us fund projects for the entire year.”

It has been a long-standing tradition of the council’s Lenten fish fries to feed the hungry and to show appreciation for firefighters and first responders by delivering hot, delicious leftover food to the Catholic Worker House, Safe Place and a nearby Cedar Rapids fire station. However, this year was different as Council #5544 members found themselves with a considerable amount of uncooked food and unopened containers.

“It was important to donate the food,” according to Roberts, “because we’re put on this earth to be a servant of God and a steward of our community.  We were faced with two options: throw out the food or try to continue our mission of goodwill. The choice was obvious.”

Jay Fields, the council’s fish fry coordinator, identified three local organizations that would most benefit from the food donations:  Green Square Meals, Metro Catholic Outreach and Catholic Worker House.  The food donated to the three organizations included:

  • 140 pounds of fish fillets,
  • 15 pounds of sour cream,
  • 4 gallons of tartar sauce,
  • 3 gallons of coleslaw dressing,
  • 5 pounds of Country Time lemonade mix powder,
  • 50 pounds of Idaho potatoes,
  • 150 eggs,
  • 20 pounds of cheese slices,
  • 17 loaves of bread.

When Susan and Larry Berns dropped off the donations at the three locations, they were greeted by staff with huge smiles. Susan commented that she and Larry lost count of the number of times the staff said, “thank you.” She continued, “We really felt like we were following the words of Jesus to feed the hungry when we dropped off the donations.  We did this for two days, but these wonderful organizations do this year-round.  It was a really moving experience.”

Although this year’s fish fry season was shortened quite radically from previous years, the council maintained their commitment to feeding the hungry and showing appreciation to those who serve our community.

Tressel is a pastoral associate at St. Jude Parish.

Larry Berns, member of Knights of Columbus Council #5544, delivers food to -Metro Catholic Outreach. (Contributed photo)