For churches in Greater Pittston, 2020 has not been a picnic by any means.
With restrictions on large gatherings in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, many churches in the area have had to either cancel or heavily modify their normal summer picnics, losing or scaling back some of the biggest fundraisers on their calendars.
“After consulting with several key bazaar workers, the staff and the parish pastoral council, it was decided that it was in the best interest of all, that we not have a summer bazaar this year,” the Rev. Joseph Elston, pastor, said of this year’s St. John the Evangelist Bazaar in Pittston. “The safety of our workers and guests was first and foremost in making the decision.”
St. John’s normally closed the picnic season in Greater Pittston, hosting its event downtown in the city the weekend prior to the Pittston Tomato Festival, which is also cancelled. Elston also leads St. Joseph Marello Parish, whose committee also decided to cancel that church’s annual picnic.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Dupont still plans to hold a picnic in a “modified manner” Friday, July 31, and Saturday, Aug. 1, on the church grounds. The Rev. Thomas Petro declined multiple requests for comment.
Sacred Heart will focus on a takeout style picnic by encouraging parish members and others to place food orders in advance. Those interested in ordering “homemade Polish foods” can fill out an order form at sacredheartdupont.com or pick up a form in the church vestibule.
Food orders can be picked up from 2 to 8 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 1 at the Walnut Street entrance and walk-in orders will be available while supplies last.
A takeout picnic proved successful for Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Duryea. David Tighe, director of parish operations, said the takeout event held July 11-12 brought in just over $10,000 in funds to the church.
“It went very well,” Tighe said. “It’s nowhere near what we would have made (from the picnic)but we were very pleased with it.”
Tighe said the volunteers tried to stay as safe as possible, going so far as to avoid frying potato pancakes on site. Instead, they sold their scratch-made batter for people to fry at home.
“People bought it,” Tighe said.
The church offered all of its normal summer bazaar staples, selling frozen packages of homemade pierogi, haluski, freshly made kielbasa sandwiches and sausage and pepper sandwiches.
Tighe said all of the people who ordered takeout picked up their food from a separate tent and observed social distancing guidelines.
“There was no overcrowding,” he said. “People were very cooperative.”
Nativity of Our Lord is planning other takeout fundraisers to build on the picnic’s success. Tighe said they have planned a takeout barbecue event for Monday, Aug. 17.
Elston said his parishes considered a takeout event, but ultimately decided on a cash raffle and additional appeal to members.
“It was decided that our local restaurants were also in the process of trying to get up-to-speed, and many were offering takeout service only,” Elston said. “We did not wish to compete in any way with their necessary attempt to get up and running. We decided instead on the cash raffle and welcome donations instead.”
This year of change has impacted all local churches financially, Elston said, but people can support their churches outside of summer bazaars and picnics.
“We realize this is a challenging time for everyone. We are very grateful that so many have been so supportive both spiritually and financially,” Elston said. “These are difficult times. We can get through it by being there for one another, doing the right thing, and continuing to be as patient and understanding as we can be.”