At 6 a.m. on a recent Friday, Dave Parsons was flipping pancakes.
Three other guys from the Exchange Club of Elkhart County were too, this time for the Goshen Salvation Army's annual daylong breakfast.
Next to Parsons was Moe Miller with 34 years of experience. Across from him was Lyman "Woody" Wood with 40 years of experience. And behind him was Bob Miller, who's been making pancakes for 45 years.
Four guys with a combined 149 years of making pancakes.
As the one with only 30 years of experience, Parsons said, "I'm a rookie."
Really, he's just less seasoned.
When they're working, they can make a dozen in less than 5 minutes. A shift may be three or four hours.
Parsons jokes that he's made 3.2 million pancakes in his career. He really has no idea, but any way you stack them, they've made tons of pancakes.
The Exchange Club of Elkhart County started making pancakes at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair in 1964 because no one else was, said Bob Miller, a charter member of the club that formed that year.
Selling pancakes there helped them raise money for their community causes. These days they raise $20,000 to $25,000 from the pancakes (and waffles) they serve in the nine days of the fair. They also sell thousands of pounds of ice to other concessionaires, which in July is a good business to be in.
But more remarkable than their work at the fair is that they take their griddles on the road. Club members donate time to make pancakes at 14 events a year, said Moe Miller. They don't take a dime to feed volunteers prior to LaCasa's annual Help-A-House event. They help other community organizations -- Loveway, The Post and Greencroft, to name a few -- by making pancakes so those organizations can sell tickets and raise money. This Saturday they'll make pancakes from 7 to 10:30 a.m. in the Elkhart County Community Center at the fairgrounds to help the Goshen Boys & Girls Club, which will charge $5 for an all-you-can-eat event.
Moe Miller said it's an easy way to help the community.
"Drop 'em on. Wait till the edges dry up. Flip 'em over," he said of the pancakes.
But there's an art to it, Bob Miller said. Even after 45 years, he said he still "kind of enjoys that. Really an art."
The club has about 40 members and meets at 6 a.m. Tuesdays at Oaklawn. Like most service clubs, the Exchange Club raises money and gives it back to the community.
There's an art to that too. But these guys go further by helping other groups raise money.
In their work, batter dispensers that drop the batter on the griddles were a technological advancement. What technology doesn't change is someone's willingness to be somewhere at 5 a.m. to make pancakes. They do it to help the community they live in. They do it multiple times a year because it's a way they can give back.
I raise my fork to them. They make perfect pancakes. They have fun making them. And they do it to help others.
Younger club members are continuing the tradition. But those early-morning shifts often involve the old-timers.
Brent Miller, Moe's son who isn't a club member but came to help relieve the four, said, "Only the old-timers are willing to get up that early."
* Cristano's Pizza Factory opened recently at 2809 Ferndale Road, Elkhart, next to IHOP on C.R. 15. The take-and-bake pizza shop is open 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and offers a variety of pizzas people can bake at home.
* Calmar Bakery opened in Concord Mall's main entrance. Calvin and Marlene Lambright and Lavoyd and Loretta Schlabach own the business and are offering Amish-made baked goods, according to a press release from the mall at 3701 S. Main St., Elkhart. Items include pies, breads, noodles, cookies and bagels.
* Chef Robert Linn of What's Cooking in Elkhart is organizing a job fair and career day for the food service industry this week. The event at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday is designed to bring potential employees together with employers. For more information, call (574) 333-7472.
* T.J.'s Corner Cafe, 1202 Johnson St., Elkhart, is changing its hours to 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, according to co-owner Sal Maldonado. The restaurant is offering an all-you-can-eat fish night from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and will offer seniors a 10 percent discount on Tuesdays.
* The American Culinary Federation's Chef of the Year dinner for the South Bend chapter is Dec. 14 at the Palais Royale, South Bend, according to Greg Beachey of the Elkhart Area Career Center. Student chefs from Ivy Tech State College and the ACF Apprentice Program will prepare a five-course meal. Tickets are $50 per person, $75 per couple or $400 for a table of 10. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (219) 575-0946 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Fiddler's Hearth, 127 N. Main, South Bend, is having a Specialty Brew Night starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 10. Five beers and five courses will cost $65 per person. Those wanting to sample without buying the full tasting can order a la carte. Information: (574) 232-2853
* South Bend Regional Airport in South Bend now has food service beyond the security checkpoint in Concourse A, meaning that passengers waiting to board planes there can purchase hot food and other items. The change is part of an expansion project, according to a press release.
Marshall V. King is food columnist and news editor for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at email@example.com, (574) 296-5805 or on Twitter @hungrymarshall.