Making dough helps ‘pierogi parish’
BY TOM FONTANA
The ‘pierogi parish’ in Jackson was rolling in dough last Saturday as it has been for more than 40 years in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Over 50 members of St. Martin’s Church gathered in the church basement on three Saturdays during Lent (March 15, 29 and April 12) to knead, stuff, boil and package between 800 and 850 dozen pierogis for one of the congregation’s biggest annual fundraisers.
This year’s coordinator Chris Lake has been participating in the project since he was 10 years old when the pierogi sale was started in the early 1970s by the Christian Women’s Society, of which his mother Mary was a member.
It became such a huge operation, that the Society sought help from the congregation, and parishioners assumed responsibility for conducting the fundraiser each year.
Demand for the pierogis became so great, that machines (such as a dough mixer and roller) were purchased to make the operation a little faster and easier. But it’s still a hands-on operation, and a lot of hands get in the mix.
“This is more than just about making money for the church,” Lake explained. “It’s about fellowship, bringing people together, and giving us a sense of community.”
According to Lake, the original recipe for the popular pierogis was created by former pastor, Father Louis Garbacik.
“They’re made with potato, cheese and onion,” Lake revealed. “And a special dough.”
“It’s pizza dough,” whispered volunteer Frank Hadnagy. “All the flour is donated by Sal Armetta of Armetta’s Pizza in Gibson. That’s the secret to our pierogis.”
Each volunteer who showed up at the church at 9 a.m. had a specific job along the pierogi assembly line, from peeling potatoes to filling orders.
Mary Lake served as supervisor, flitting from station to station to make sure everything was running smoothly, and to lend a hand where needed.
Last Saturday, Ellis Hobart could be found mixing eggs and flour to make the dough; the dough rolling machine was carefully monitored by Frank Supansik; scoops of filling were expertly plopped on to cut-out dough circles by Rosemary Cosentino and Agnes Whitehead; among those folding the dough over the mixture and locking each pierogi shut with forks were Diane Frye and Kathy Flor; in the kitchen, the delicacies were boiled to perfection by Attorney Michael Briechle; and helping to pack a dozen pieorgies to a tray was Sharon Panasevich.
The finished product would be sold for $7 per dozen either later in the day or after Mass the next morning. Pre-orders were delivered to the Montrose School District, Barnes-Kasson Medical Center and the Susquehanna County Courthouse. Some parishioners also took orders where they work.
“A lot of people will order frozen, or freeze them,” Lake said, “and save them for Good Friday. A dozen pierogis is a meal in itself.”
The ‘pierogi parish’ fundraiser has been going on for so long that, in recent years, three generations of one family have participated. This year, a 3-year-old helper made up the fourth generation of one family.
Lake estimated that the sale will earn between $4,500 and $5,000 this year. The money is used mostly for building and grounds maintenance, including electricity and heating bills.
Many who got pierogis from the Jackson church were sure to enjoy them on Good Friday. Those who missed out will have to wait until next year – a great local tradition to look forward to.