Every Friday during Lent, vehicles pile into Good Shepherd Catholic Church’s parking lot for the weekly fish fry prepared by the Knights of Columbus.
Hungry patrons are willing to shell out anywhere from $5.50 for a fish sandwich to $10 for a two-piece meal, complete with baked potato, coleslaw and hushpuppies, for the Knights’ fundraiser.
But for those parishioners homebound and physically unable to attend, Phyllis Bruning, Ann Grider and Suzanne Cwiak deliver meals free of charge.
The idea began with an elderly woman to whom Bruning delivered weekly communion every Sunday about 12 years ago. She told Bruning she’d never been to one of the fish fries.
Bruning, whose husband Dan filets every piece of fish, started taking meals every Friday for the woman and her sister.
“I think I took it to her that whole Lenten season, and then she passed away shortly after that,” Bruning said.
“I didn’t do it for a while after that, and I don’t know why.”
When she started delivering the weekly Eucharist again a couple years ago, the idea returned.
“It wasn’t until I started taking communion again to some of the homebound that I was like, ‘We need to do this,’” Bruning said. “And then it just snowballed from there.”
This year, volunteers are on pace to deliver about 140 meals after handing out 80 in 2010 and 124 last year, Bruning said.
“This is a community thing,” she said of the deliverers and about 20 Knights who prepare the meal. “It takes all of us.”
Bruning, Grider and Cwiak call people on Good Shepherd’s list of homebound and needy parishioners, who have their pick of the menu. Bruning ensures orders, which are donated by the Knights, are filled shortly before the cookout begins at 5 p.m.
For those who prefer eating later, she makes another round of deliveries at 6 p.m. She doesn’t have her fish dinner until deliveries are filled.
Bruning says the dinners help homebound parishioners stay connected with the church. Some live at Ashwood Place or other assisted living centers.
“They truly appreciate it because it makes them feel like part of the community, and they are,” she said. “They’re part of our church community, and we want them to know that we remember them.
“If they can’t come to us, we’ll come to them.”
The Knights also donate meals to family members and caregivers who can’t leave the patient, Bruning said.
Many times, she’s greeted with hugs and words of appreciation. Bruning has developed friendships with those on her list, some of whom have been on her route since day one.
At first, some can’t believe their luck. A woman Friday was surprised when Bruning said she’d see her next week.
“She goes, ‘What do you mean next Friday?’” Bruning said. “I said, ‘Well, I’m going to bring this every Friday during Lent except for Good Friday.’
“She said, ‘You are? Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you so much.’ So yes, they truly appreciate it.”
Her only regret is that she can’t stay and chat during her route.
Not even severe weather slows down deliveries. Bruning stopped at her home and waited for tornado sirens to stop Friday before hitting the road again.
Bruning says she’ll keep the service going as long as she’s able and the Knights are willing.
“I hope this is a ministry that Good Shepherd will continue from here out,” she said. “Because that’s what this church is about –ministering to the people.”