Cooking for community


PENDLETON — Two hundred and twenty pounds of cod. Ninety pounds of breading. One hundred and twenty pounds of crinkle-cut french fries.
These are some of the core supplies — along with drinks and dessert and the labor of the United Methodist Men — that help make the biannual Pendleton First United Methodist Church Community Fish Fry a successful event for the church.
“We don’t make a whole lot (of money) — it’s more of a community thing,” fish fry leader Ken Tullis said as he manned one of the three frying stations, taking a batch of freshly breaded fish from the breading table and putting it into a fry basket for frying.
“That’s our goal, is to do the community thing,” he said. “Getting the people together (and doing outreach).”
The fish fry — put on by the United Methodist Men’s group — ran from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday. There was no charge for the meal, but a “love offering” of $10 per meal was requested.
Tullis and one other person started preparing for the event at about 9:30 a.m. Friday. Most of the others came in at about 1 p.m.
There’s a lot of work that needs doing to set up the cookers and drive-thru outside behind the church, and to set up the kitchen and dining room in the basement, but “we have it pretty down pat,” Tullis said.
The church — which celebrates its bicentennial this year — has been running fish fries for “about 15 years, at least,” he said.
Many who came to eat at the event have been doing so for years, too.
For others it was their first time.
There’s a mix of reasons people turn up.
“I love fish fries — just do it for the dinner,” said Pam Alley, who picked up her meal at the drive-thru with husband, Tim.
Sue Passwater said she loves the food, too, but also looks to support local organizations.
“I like to help out the community,” she said, noting from her car in the drive-thru lane that she’s usually buying for more than just herself. “If there’s (a fish fry) and we’re available, we try to go to it, just to help out the community.”
Down in the dining room, people stressed the social aspect as the main draw.
Hugh and Rita Rider, who are retired and live in Florida, said they were in town for a few weeks to visit people and for his Pendleton High School Class of 1954 reunion.
Hugh said he “grew up here, got baptized” and still cherishes the people he reconnects with at the fish fry.
“This is our church … we know a lot of people in the church,” he said.
“As you get older, you appreciate the people who are still around.”
Similarly, Tiffany (Held) Lucas, who is in the middle of a move from Maryland to Kansas associated with the military, came to the fish fry with her three young children and other family members.
“I grew up in this church,” Lucas said. “I’ve done the fish fries before when I was younger.”
A 2009 Pendleton Heights graduate, she said the fish fry is a “great community event.
“I do recognize a lot of people.”
The Rev. John Groves said the event is a project of the men’s group; however, he was there outside at the checkout point of the drive-thru, talking with people and expressing gratitude.
“Thanks for stopping by,” he said to one customer. “We appreciate it.”
Dick Smith, who worked a fryer, said the United Methodist Men and all it offers — including the chance to prepare a fish dinner for the community — serves its members as much as the group serves the patrons who come out.
“We have a purpose, there’s a reason to be, and we have a bunch of good, like-minded guys,” he said.
Tullis later said last week’s event turned out “great.”
They served about 350 dinners total, with about 150 of those being served at the drive-thru.
They will do it all again in a few months’ time, he said.

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