NEW PHILADELPHIA Tuscarawas County has villages with populations smaller than the crowd that meets for the Sacred Heart Lenten fish dinners on Fridays.
The meals, starring baked cod and deep-fried pollock, draw nearly 800 people per week, according to chairwoman Carolyn Brodzinski. About 230 to 250 orders are packed for carryout. The rest are shared in the cafeteria of Tuscarawas Central Catholic High School, where the seasonal event is now in its seventh year.
“The people just love it,” Brodzinski said. “It’s like family. It’s like this huge community family.”
Although Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, you don’t need to be a church member to attend.
“We get a lot of people here that are not Catholic,” said volunteer Angie Stamm. “They come to socialize.”
Brodzinski said a group of Baptists regularly gathers in a corner of the cafeteria.
The queue starts forming in the hall before the three-hour dinner service starts at 4 p.m. Verna Simmers and friend Bob Karl were at the front of the line Friday.
“We’re always first,” said Simmers. Her claim was verified by event volunteers.
When asked why they are such devoted fans, Simmers said, “We’re members of the church. And everything is always so good. You just can’t go wrong by coming here.”
Simmers and Karl, both residents of the south side of New Philadelphia, meet with family members at the dinners.
Family is one of the reasons Shiela Demattio is a regular. Her grandchildren are among the Saints of Tuscarawas Central Catholic, which benefits from the proceeds. Demattio…
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