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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2011:03:18 01:42:38

From left, front row: Chris Urban and Nick Bernie.Second row: Chris Klein and Jon Tonte.Third row: Collin Halagarda.Fourth row: Jeff Smicherko. PHOTO SHANNON C. KEITH

They didn’t gather outside in the heat because they were told they had to participate. They didn’t gather outside to peel and prepare a ton of potatoes because they were being punished for a juvenile misdeed.

No, there was nothing forced or mandatory about the efforts of Chris Urban, Chris Klein, Collin Halagarda, Jeff Smicherko, Nick Bennie and Jon Tonte as they worked together Tuesday, July 9, outside the parish center on Stephenson Street in Duryea.

“I’m doing this to help my parish,” Tonte said, chopping potatoes that would eventually become the foundation of the church’s famous potato pancake recipe. “I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years.”

Nick Bennie smiled as he worked alongside his peers, despite the July heat. When asked why he, too, had volunteered when he could be home inside the air conditioning or doing something else during the summer break, his smile grew wider.

“Many hands make light work,” Bennie replied,” to which the rest of the potato crew erupted in laughter.

Their work isn’t the easiest, tasked with peeling and prepping 54 5-gallon buckets of chopped potatoes. There is a special benefit to their effort — sampling the recipe ahead of the picnic crowds — and a kinship that comes from working together.

“These events bring us together,” Tonte added. “They bring the whole community together.”

Their drive and dedication doesn’t go unnoticed. In fact, Nativity of Our Lord Parish pastor, the Rev. Andrew Sinnott, watched the group as they tended to box after box of potatoes.

“I’m really proud of the young people in our parish,” he said. “When ever we need help with something, they come out and help.”

Festivities get underway at 6 p.m. Friday, July 12, on the Sacred Heart of Jesus picnic grounds, 529 Stephenson St. in Duryea, with entertainment by the Sperazza Band until 11 p.m.

The picnic opens at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, with entertainment from Aim and Fire until 11:30 p.m. On Sunday, July 14, the picnic is open from 4-10 p.m. and entertainment is provided by Witz End.

The picnic features cash raffles, basket raffles, homemade food, kids’ games and a flea market. A pre-picnic flea market will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 11.

“This annual picnic brings the people of our parish together and is really well known throughout our area,” Sinnott said.