Local church group literally using ‘noodle’ to raise funds for projects

Members of the New Hope Church Oodles of Noodles crew (from left) David Walker, Janice Alvey and Gene Wilson, go for a record noodle as they run a long sheet of dough through the noodle-cutting machine. The group has made more than $10,000 in the past six years, making and selling the noodles one 14-ounce bag at a time.
Members of the New Hope Church Oodles of Noodles crew (from left) David Walker, Janice Alvey and Gene Wilson, go for a record noodle as they run a long sheet of dough through the noodle-cutting machine. The group has made more than $10,000 in the past six years, making and selling the noodles one 14-ounce bag at a time. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 26, 2018.

It helps to have a sense of humor when you’re doing something as mundane as making noodles.

It’s what has melded a group of noodle-makers from New Hope United Brethren Church into a tight-knit and rather efficient group, and has helped fund some big projects in their church and the community.

And, they’ll tell you, that’s some big noodle-doin’s.

Dubbing themselves the “Oodles of Noodles,” on just about any given Monday morning you can find the crew – comprised of church members Janice Alvey, Carolyn Gray, Tom Gray, Bonnie Walker, David Walker, Gene Wilson and Jerry Wilson – getting together in a couple of rooms at New Hope to create their product, a plethora of homemade egg noodles. Sold for $3 a bag, the humble noodle sales have added up to some big bucks, paying off a large portion of the church’s New Life Center expansion debt, funding youth camp expenses and contributing to New Hope’s Spiritual Care program, a benevolence fund set up primarily to help members of the church with financial difficulties.

Carolyn Gray “used her noodle” to come up with the project about seven years ago to help the church get out of debt, after a church she had formerly attended did a similar project.

“(New Hope) added this million-dollar addition,” she recalls. “The pastor wanted any projects that people could do to help raise money to pay that off as soon as possible. This is one that we brainstormed and came up with the idea to do this as one of the money-making projects.”

In six years the group raised more than $10,000 from their labor of pasta love, working assembly-line style in a couple of rooms near the church’s main office.

“That’s a lot of noodles out the door,” Gray says. “There were times we had to put a sign on the door because we had like over 200 orders that we were behind on.”

The group made more, and sent their noodles far and wide, with word of mouth being their primary marketing strategy. Church members took them to work to sell, bags of noodles were kept handy for anyone who stopped by the church office and church cooks used them as main ingredients in chicken and noodle fund-raiser dinners. They even had them available in the new gym during Upward basketball games.

Bonnie Walker, who has also been on the noodle squad for seven years, says the noodles were a part of other fund-raising projects, including dinner theaters and a golf outing that paid off the building expansion two years ago. But after the debt was retired, the noodlemeisters found themselves on an unstoppable roll by then, having created a customer base for their niche product.

“We thought we’d be done; nobody would be selling noodles,” Gray explains. “But then a lot of us like me, we’re retired and you’re not out in the public to push them at work or anything, so I thought we’d quit. But then people keep asking for them, so I guess we didn’t quit.”

In the last couple of months they made $700. Most of that is profit, since the 10 dozen farm-fresh eggs used each week are usually donated by Walker’s daughter and son-in-law, Kerry and Scot Beaver. Any slack is picked up with eggs donated by an anonymous friend in Columbia City.

“Whenever we need eggs, they’re always there to help us out, and we don’t have to pay for eggs that way,” Walker says. “We make sure everybody knows they are farm eggs.”

Other donations are used to purchase the 15 pounds of flour and a bit of salt it takes each week to make the noodle dough. Carolyn Gray serves as the official mixer; then the dough is run through two thinning machines before it is cut into noodle strips by a third machine, and spread out on huge tables next door in the drying room.

“We’ve gone through about three food processors in seven years,” Walker says.

The final product is 30 14-ounce bags of thoroughly dried noodles that can be stored on a pantry shelf or frozen for a longer period of time.

Making them only at wintertime to avoid the summer humidity, the Oodles of Noodles crew often resorts to noodle humor to make working on the assembly line fun. There are no wet noodles in this bunch.

Walker and Gray giggle as they recall the time the church’s pastor asked them whether he could eat the raw noodles.

Walker says her husband, David, has been dubbed “The Crank” – meaning, of course, that he mans the crank on the noodle-cutting machine.

Then there are the puns.

“We found an egg last week that didn’t have a yolk,” Walker says. “No joke – there was no yolk!”

“We just have such good fellowship – that’s the thing,” Gray adds. “I guess it’s good to get together that hour, hour-and-a-half once a week, and it just goes real quick.”

To purchase some of the Oodles of Noodles’ noodles, noodle lovers should call the church secretary, Barbara Hilderbrand, at 356-0870 or just stop by the New Hope Church office at 2001 Engle St. in Huntington – and hopefully some will be available for sale.