Chapel By The Sea Spaghetti Fundraisers

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    “Approximately 200 guests attended the benefit spaghetti supper at Chapel By The Sea. The spaghetti supper is for the purpose of raising funds to equip the newly built kitchen.”

    No, this is not a feature update on last month’s spaghetti benefit dinner hosted by Chapel By The Sea to update its current kitchen; this was a story in the News Press from March 1940 reporting on the spaghetti supper fundraiser to equip its then-recently-completed kitchen!

    “Our new clerk of sessions of our governing council, Rexann Hosafros, was looking for old records,” said Denise Armstrong, office administrator for Chapel By The Sea. “She came out and was so excited, saying, ‘Look what we found!’ We began in January hosting a monthly spaghetti dinner fundraiser to update our kitchen, and we found our forbearers held them all the way back then for the very same reason, and we thought that was just so interesting!”

    Denise explained that having 200 people at a Fort Myers Beach social event in 1940 was “a huge draw on the island in that era,” as that represented more than 10% of its entire population at that time, equating to over 700 people today. She noted as well that “several gentlemen paid $10 for their dinner tickets, and they cleared $150.” Ten dollars then equates to roughly $175 in 2017, a generous contribution for spaghetti, with their total raised in 1940 for the kitchen work equating to over $2,500 today. “The funny-sad thing is,” Denise quipped, “that one of the $10 men apparently had so much fun just socializing with everyone that by the time he went for food, it was all gone!”

    Original Chapel by the Sea being moved to Harlem Heights, 1984.

    In another twist of fate, “we charge $10 for adults for our dinners now,” relates Denise with a smile! “Children eat for just $5, as do public safety or military personnel in uniform or with identification. The thought that some parishioners would pay $10 for a meal in 1940 is really impressive.”

    Part of Our DNA

    “In addition to being a delicious fundraiser, we began the spaghetti dinners as a way to reach out into the community on a monthly basis,” explained the Reverend Doctor Stephen Adkison, Pastor of Chapel By The Sea. “When we came up with the concept, we had no idea we were recreating the history of the church, but I like it a lot and am happy to be a part of it because it is like we are paying tribute to a part of our DNA. History repeats itself, and sometimes that is good.”

    Chef-helpers, brothers Jacob and Dobbin Greer.

    While solidly behind the dinners, Pastor Steve not only does not take credit for them, “I was not even in the room! Our Discipleship & Fellowship Committee, headed up by Miffie Greer, who was 2016 Citizen of the Year for Fort Myers Beach, and very active in the church and in the community, oversaw their work. They usually meet right after services so I was out with the parishioners, ‘taking care of business,’ so-to-speak! When they told me, I said, ‘Alright – Yeah!’ If I get a day off in the week, it is normally Saturday, but I am happy to come in for the great time, and the food is incredible! The meatballs they make are probably the best I ever had, based on recipes from our facility manager’s wife, Kay Roach, and our treasure, Arlene Fisher, who we affectionately call ‘Chef Chapel-etti!’”

    Albert Werner, a.k.a. Mr. Meatball.

    In addition to the outstanding food, Chapel By The Sea really knows how to set the mood: “Albert Werner is Mr. Meatball,” says Pastor Steve with a hearty laugh! “He is in a costume that looks just like a meatball. A few of the kids dress up like little chefs, complete with aprons and handkerchiefs, and when we host the dinners, they stand by Estero Boulevard with Mr. Meatball; that is a great way to pull people in.”

    The first of the current spaghetti dinners drew roughly 150 people, and that rose to over 200 in February, “so we have to increase our meatball making – that is a technical culinary term,” offers Denise in jest. “Our next two are on Saturdays, March 18 and April 8, and we serve on a rotating basis of people coming-and-going from 5 to 7 p.m.” The menu includes spaghetti & meatballs, with a side of spicy sausage with peppers and onions, side salad, garlic toast and ice cream sundaes for dessert, with coffee, iced tea and lemonade. “It is a lot of food and it is very, very delicious,” Pastor Steve says. “There is even Italian music playing in the background – we have everything but the monkey & organ grinder and we are looking for that, too!”

    Full of Parables

    In a story full of parables, Pastor Steve noted that “another interesting thing is that the church that existed here when they started the dinner for the kitchen was moved to Harlem Heights in South Fort Myers, and even though it underwent changes since then, for the most part it remains intact. That kitchen was the same one for which they raised the money.”

    Chapel By The Sea needs to update its current kitchen because they use it so much: “We host dinners several times a month,” offers Pastor Steve. “God’s Table is in there Monday through Friday mornings, and there are community lunches, with communion the first Sunday of the month with a dinner after that, and now the Saturday spaghetti. Our kitchen is over 35 years old, so with all we do, it needs serious revamping.”

    Chapel by the Sea’s Discipleship & Fellowship Committee.

    Denise say attendance for the new fundraising dinners “is so far a good mixture of our members and neighbors, and people who come here for the Season.” “We wanted to reach out to the community, and we are doing just that,” agreed Pastor Steve. “We provide a wonderful dinner as well as fellowship, and you get to know a little more about Chapel By The Sea. I hope that a lot of people will come, and we extend an invitation to all to join us. At the first few dinners, there were many people I did not recognize, so it was a chance for me to introduce myself.”

    They do not yet know if they will continue the spaghetti dinners throughout the Summer past the one set for Saturday, April 8, or wait until next Season to start them again. “We are considering them year-round,” explains Pastor Steve, “as we have parishioners who stay, and once Season ends so many things stop; we need activities for those who remain, so we are seriously discussing doing that.”

    Chapel By The Sea is at 100 Chapel Street, next to Town Hall. For more information see chapelbts.org or call 239-463-3173. It hosts Sunday services through Easter at 8 and 10 a.m., then will return to a single worship at 10 a.m. The next two spaghetti dinners are Saturdays, March 18 and April 8. “It is nice to raise money,” says Pastor Steve about the spaghetti dinners, “but to me it is more about extending our hospitality to the community, to be a place where you can bring the family, and demonstrate God’s love.”

     

    Gary Mooney

    Photos provided