Chemung County residents, start whetting your appetites for Italian food.
It’s almost time for the 24th-annual Free Spaghetti Supper, to be hosted by Blessed Sacrament Parish in Elmira. The meal will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, at the parish center on St. Joseph’s Boulevard and High Street.
The supper is open to all members of the community, regardless of religious affiliation or income level. Between 500 and 600 meals are typically served — including a grand total of 523 last year — by the volunteer crew that sets up, cooks, serves and cleans up. Blessed Sacrament puts a special focus on individuals and families who struggle with poverty by offering the supper at no cost, thanks to donations by parishioners and local businesses.
According to Elaine Chamberlin, long-time coordinator of the Free Spaghetti Supper, some new wrinkles will be added this year.
"We are using china dishes and metal silverware in an effort to go greener. We are adding salad to the menu. We also had the option of meatless sauce last year and plan to continue as it was well-received," she noted. Chamberlin added that the supper is taking place earlier in May, since the gymnasium is not air conditioned and "we held it at the end of the month last year and it was 90 degrees that day."
Another change of note is involvement from the entire parish staff to assist Chamberlin in planning this mammoth event. Anne Bremer, who serves as Blessed Sacrament’s bookkeeper, said she’s looking forward to working on the supper for the first time, saying it’s a special event for Chemung County — and a timely one, since the area has been beset by economic difficulties.
"This is something that the parish is very proud of," Bremer said.
The inventory of last year’s food and beverage consumption is a good indicator of how popular this meal has become: 120 pounds of pasta used, including 10 extra pounds after the original amount ran out; seven cases of industrial-sized sauce ingredients; 45 pounds of ground beef and sausage; 10 pounds of grated cheese; 17 boxes of ice-cream bars with 24 per box (although Chamberlin said ice cream won’t be served this year); and large supplies of Italian bread and margarine, brownies, cookies, soda and ice water.
Approximately 75 people worked on the day of last year’s Free Spaghetti Supper, with other supporters aiding the cause by baking, bringing in items, donating cash and praying for the success of the event. Chamberlin said since nearly all members of the original supper crew are no longer involved, she’s grateful for increased volunteer efforts from Blessed Sacrament and other area parishes.
The Free Spaghetti Supper originated at St. Patrick Church in 1988 and later moved to the former St. Anthony Church before arriving at its present location at the parish center, across from Ss. Peter and Paul Church.