St. Benedict's Parish hosts 51st annual Friday fish fry, make adjustments for COVID safety

BLUE ISLAND, Ill. (WLS) -- The St. Benedict parish in Blue Island is finding a COVD-safe way to host their annual fish fry during Lent this year. This is their 51st year doing it.

"I did not ask for volunteers this year. Usually we have a team of about 80 people that help," said Nena Sanchez-Ziolkowski, who runs the fish fries. "We're down to 20."

In prior years, St. Benedict sold 1,200 fish every week at their Friday fish fries. This year, even amid the pandemic, the number is only slightly down to 700. Many of the fish fry volunteers are elderly parishioners who have already been vaccinated.

"I have a crew of octogenarians that come down at 6 in the morning on Thursdays to fill the cups, the souffle cups with tartar sauce, beets, and cole slaw. And they're here on Thursdays from 6-10 (in the morning)," Sanchez-Ziolkowski said. "They've all been vaccinated."

Gloria Rose, another life-long parishioner, help co-found the fish fry half a century ago with her mother and sister.

"There were six of us," Rose said. "Back then, we'd be lucky to make $800."

The fish fry has grown significantly since then, and it's clear that they're selling a lot more fish these days too.

"People come in from Des Plaines. They're coming in from all over because our fish is so good," Rose said.

Sanchez-Ziolkowski has been a part of the fish fry for over 30 years. Her family history at the church goes back even further; everyone in her family, from her father to her children, attended the church's grade school.

"They say our fish is very good. It's the best. But I do know there's a lot of quality in what we serve and there's a lot of care and love in how we serve it," Sanchez-Ziolkowski said.
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