Dinner: Mercer-Prieto VFW serves enough spaghetti to feed a platoon

October 17, 2014
Santa Paula News

Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 cooked up enough spaghetti to feed a platoon so there was plenty of go around at the veterans’ annual Spaghetti Dinner held October 9 at the Community Center.

The event drew more than 300 pasta lovers and VFW supporters from throughout the city, a steady stream of diners ready to eat in and socialize or take packaged meals home.

American veterans are known to always answer the call and rally when needed, and that includes the call to community service... each year dinner proceeds are donated to various nonprofit organizations and programs.

The dinner is the only fundraiser the Post holds each year, but it’s an especially tasty one: the steaming spaghetti was topped with meat-and-mushroom rich sauce, accompanied by salad, garlic bread and a bit of chocolate for dessert.

VFW’s Rey Frutos was taking and selling tickets and said he would eat when procession of guests stopped... but it looked like he would be hungry for a while.

Noted Frutos, “People were here really early and we’ve had a steady participation,” of spaghetti seekers, including City Councilman Martin Hernandez, an Air Force veteran.

Residents of the Ventura Veterans Home were also enjoying dinner including Bill Florio, a former Santa Paula resident.

Florio noted his 90th birthday is December 7, the same date in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was attacked; the next day the United States declared they had entered World War II.

“Quite a coincidence, eh?” said Florio, a WWII veteran, who was accompanied by his son Mark Florio of Santa Paula.

Jannette Jauregui, an author and columnist who has released two books telling the stories of Ventura County military veterans, was at the dinner with her husband Tony Esparza and their daughter Elise.

Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 said Jauregui, “Is unmatched,” for the services they provide countywide, such as providing Color Guards, a Rifle Squad and a trumpeter to play “Taps” for the funeral services of war veterans.

“Any support I can offer them I will,” said Jauregui. “I am forever indebted to our veterans,” for their service to their country and fellow Americans.

Post Commander Jerry Olivas said later that in typical VFW fashion even one latecomer was served.

“We had a lady show up at 7:30 p.m., she’d been at work and we were cleaning up,” but after her assurances that she would gladly reheat the spaghetti at home, she was given a hefty to-go container.

“Her spaghetti wasn’t hot but she left happy,” said Olivas.

The sauce recipe was a hit with diners: “It’s a recipe that’s been passed down, people really enjoy it,” the blend of meat and mushrooms, the warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor of oregano amid the spices.

With the aging of WWII and Korean War veterans and the reluctance of those that served in Vietnam and the Mid-East to join veterans groups - perhaps opting to forget, at least for now - Olivas said it has become harder to stage events.

But volunteers have stepped up, if not brothers in arms at least brothers in seeing that those that fought for others can now be helped themselves.

And that includes the children of VFW members, both past and present: “We had Rodney Cobos helping us out,” whose late father “Bill” Cobos was highly active with the Post, as well as “Chris Lopez and George Lopez,” among those others said Olivas, “so many that helped us out... and the community, Santa Paula is always wonderfully supportive of the veterans.”

Only a small portion of the funds raised directly benefit the Post by picking up the cost of required liability insurance, and the balance is donated to the plethora of community programs and organizations supported by the veterans’ group.  

Each year the Post loyally donates to the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley, City Recreation Department programs, YMCA, and the Santa Paula Little League. 

Also on the long list of Post-supported organizations are the Rotary Christmas Basket Fund, Hospice/Home Support Group of Santa Clara Valley, Isbell Middle School Washington, D.C. trip, Santa Paula High and Isbell schools’ bands, Santa Paula Theater Center, Food Share, Blanchard Community Library FLAIR, Isbell Condor Chorus, Optimist Club Christmas Parade (the Post is a featured favorite in all Santa Paula parades), and the Salvation Army Bell Ringers holiday drive, among others.

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