Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 01:03 PM

Good food for the soul at Sunday feast

BY MIRANDA WHITWORTH Contributing writer

It's a homemade meal that's cheaper than a run to the drive-thru, made with love by the Italian Catholic Federation.

Gary Moles, organizer of Sunday's breakfast and lunch feast, has run the annual event for nearly 20 years, though he's yet to don an apron. He leaves the cooking to the members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.

Related Info

Italian Catholic Federation's Breakfast and Lunch

When: Breakfast 8 a.m. to noon; lunch 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall, 124 Columbus St.

Admission: $5; kids 12 and under $3

Information: 549-2014 or garym@wncitrus.com

"I do all of the running around, getting people organized and then the cleaning up. I have seasoned professionals that do all of the cooking and it's really good. For the price, you won't get anything better."

Breakfast includes all of the standard American morning fare: pancakes, sausage, fruit, juice and coffee. Cost is $5 a plate for adults and $3 for children under 12. Proceeds go to a number of worthy causes, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Catholic seminarians, the Special Olympics and the organization's national charity, Cooley's Anemia Foundation, which supports people living with a rare blood disorder called Thalassemia.

But the star of the culinary show comes at lunch, starting at 11 a.m., with what the organization has dubbed "World Famous Italian Sausage Sandwiches." While Moles isn't sure whether the sandwich's fame has reached the far corners of the globe, he said the title more than fits.

"It's kind of a running joke. Alan Watts does the lunch cooking, and everything he does is world famous."

Watts, the music minister at OLPH, got in on the fundraising action after asking the important question: Why stop at breakfast? Moles knew adding a second serving was a great way to keep the event running and bring in some extra support.

"Alan really likes to cook, and when we just did the breakfast then the people at the noon Mass wouldn't really get anything, so we decided to add it on, and it's worked out great."

Extending the meal to make sure everyone can take part falls in line with the original mission of the Italian Catholic Federation. Begun in Oakland in 1924, the federation was a way to bring Italians back into the Catholic Church. It has since spread throughout California, through Arizona and even out to Chicago. Here in Kern County, the federation boasts about 150 members whose main objective, according to Moles, is to enhance the community atmosphere among parishioners.

"So many people come to church and, when it's over, will take off really fast. We have these events to keep people around and get them socializing. And it seems to be working really well."

With the pancake and lunch events four times a year in addition to the federation's other fundraisers -- including a pasta dinner on Palm Sunday and a horse racing event set for October -- Moles knows that a steady pace fueled by hard work is the key to success.

"I was mentored by the gentleman who started the breakfasts back in the 1970s, and I took them over when he passed away. I think I'll probably be doing them until my time is up, and that's OK. It's a lot of work but it's also a lot of fun."

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