Lifelong Cedar Rapids resident Ken Goodell has become known as “Mr. Fish Fry” by the parish of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in northwest Cedar Rapids.
Now that this year’s fish fry season has begun, Goodell, 76, will spend most of his weekdays in the church’s kitchen. The kitchen that he helped design and rebuild after the Floods of 2008.
“My father was instrumental in rebuilding the church and the parish center after the flood,” said Deb Berns, 53, Goodell’s daughter and a loyal fish fry volunteer. “He designed that kitchen with the fish fries in mind, you know.”
Fish fries are common among Catholic churches who use the event as a fundraiser serving thousands each Lenten season. But it takes lots of work, good coordination and plenty of devoted volunteers like Goodell.
Goodell, who has belonged to the parish for 55 years, said the fish fries at St. Patrick’s began in 2007 but had to take a hiatus after the flood until 2010. He’s been there for every single one and each year more fish is fried.
“On Monday I order the product, Wednesday it comes in, Thursday we wash potatoes and prepare and Friday 10 people come in at midday to start cooking,” Goodell said. “This year I think I’ll order around 4,800 pounds of product.”
This “product” that Goodell speaks of is Alaskan walleye, which is served deep fried or baked and is accompanied by a plethora of homemade sides like mac and cheese, coleslaw, American fries or baked potatoes.
Last year, volunteers helped serve around 7,800 of these meals, according to Goodell.
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“I keep coming back because of them,” he said. “We keep getting more people each year because they want to volunteer for something that works.”
And the fish fries, which help St. Patrick’s raise funds with each $10 plate, do “work.”
Every Friday 250 to 350 cars line up to pick up their orders and dozens more people come to “dine in” at the church, where 200 volunteers work diligently to dole out a plate of food every 8 seconds.
“It’s a good community builder,” Berns, whose husband and children also volunteer at the fish fries, said.
Goodell also has two other daughters in Colorado and Arizona, who travel to Cedar Rapids to volunteer at least once during fish fry season, according to Berns.
“My daughter Deb spends as much time down there as I do,” Goodell said. “If I’m involved in something she’s involved in it.”
For this family, volunteering is a family affair and cooking is “in (Goodell’s) blood.”
His father was a chef and his mother made the salads and baked goods for church events, according to Berns.
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“I’ve just always enjoyed (cooking],” Goodell said. “If you’ve done a good job, you can tell by people’s faces.”
For the rest of the season, you can find Mr. Fish Fry cooking up a storm at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 500 First Ave. NW, every Friday through March 30.
Area Fish Fries
The following is a list of just some of the area fish fries taking place through Lent. Fill free to add your fish fry to The Gazette’s calendar at Hooplanow.com
• What: St. Patrick’s Catholic Church’s Fish Fries
• When: 5 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday through March 30
• Where: St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 500 First Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids
• Cost: $10 adults, $9 adults over 65 $9; $6 children 5 to 12; free for children under 4
• What: VFW Post #788 Fish Dinner
• When: 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday through March 30
• Where: VFW Post #788, 3240 Southgate Place SW, Cedar Rapids
• Cost: $10
• What: St. Jude Lenten Fish Fry
• When: 5 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday, except Good Friday
• Where: St. Jude Catholic Church, 50 Edgewood Rd. NW, Cedar Rapids
• Cost: $10 adult, $8 senior, $5 children, free active military with ID
• What: Knights of Columbus Council #5390
• When: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays through March 23
• Where: Knights of Columbus Hall, 5650 Kacena Ave., Marion
• Cost: $10 adults, $5 youth ages 6 to 10, free ages 5 and under
• What: St. Ludmila Catholic Church Fish Fry
• When: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays through March 30
• Where: St. Ludmila Catholic Church,
• Cost: $12 adults, $5 children ages 5 to 12, free ages 4 and under
• What: St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus Fish Fry
• When: 5 to 7 p.m. March 9, March 23
• Where: St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 3000 12th Ave., Coralville
• Cost: $15 all-you-can eat, $10 adults; $#5 kids ages 12 and under
• What: Iowa City American Legion Post 17 Fish Fry
• When: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays through March 30
• Where: Iowa City American Legion Post 17, 3016 Muscatine Ave., Iowa City
• Cost: $5.99 to $13.99
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