10/14/05 — 20 years and still frying

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20 years and still frying

By Renee Carey
Published in News on October 14, 2005 1:57 PM

Eight hundred pounds of fish; 160 gallons of oil; and thousands of children whose lives will be changed forever.

For members of the Wayne Shrine Club, there is only one reason to get up at 6:45 a.m., haul fish and oil, set up tents and then fry filets for hours to serve thousands of hungry Wayne County residents.

"I do it to help the children," said Lewis Herring, 77, of Goldsboro, who has been one of the volunteers at the annual fish fry for nearly 20 years.

Wayne Edwards of the Wayne County Shrine Club

News-Argus/Bobby Williams

Wayne Edwards adjusts the burners for the fish fryers this morning.

The money raised at the event, which will be today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. at Herman Park Center in Goldsboro and at Roberts Machine Shop across from Rose's Shopping Center in Mount Olive, benefits the 22 Shriner's Hospitals for Children across the United States. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.

For the Wayne Shriners, the hospitals' work has already hit home. There are 24 Wayne County children currently being treated at either the Greenville, S.C., or the Cincinnati, Ohio, hospitals.

And it is the thoughts of those children that keep all the Shriners going, whether they are frying fish or driving their little red mini-rigs in a parade, said Wayne Edwards, a local member and the soon-to-be potentate for the Sudan Shriners, the Wayne chapter's parent group.

"Ask any Shriner why he does this, and you will get the same answer," he said. "For the children."

Edwards said the children who are helped at the hospitals suffer from burn injuries and other pediatric conditions that require sometimes expensive and exhaustive treatment that their parents might not be able to afford on their own.

The annual budget to operate the hospitals is $600 million, he said. And the Shriners are proud to say that 94.6 percent of dollars raised by the local groups go right back into caring for the children.

"There are no cash registers at Shrine hospitals," Edwards said. "All our care is free. We are afforded the privilege as Shriners the opportunity to bring these children the care they otherwise wouldn't be able to get."

And it only takes meeting one of the thousands of boys and girls who are helped at the hospitals to make the hours worthwhile, Wayne Shrine Club President George Raecher said.

"I don't think I have ever belonged to a community service organization where you get so much satisfaction out of helping others," he said. "Once you visit a hospital, that's all it takes."

And so far, after 20 some years of frying, Raecher said the local group has raised nearly $250,000 for those children.

And they aren't finished yet, either.

More than 40 volunteers will work in shifts today to serve the fish, coleslaw, potato salad, hush puppies, tea and water to the hungry patrons expected throughout the day.

And working alongside the men will be their wives, the Lady Shrinettes, who will tempt the crowds with homebaked desserts to finish off their meals. The money raised from their sale also benefits the hospitals.

Also donating to the effort are AmeriGas in Goldsboro and the Mount Olive Gas Co. in Mount Olive, which supplied the Shriners with the gas to fry the fish free of charge.

The Shriners are hoping to sell 5,500 plates of fish today, although they wouldn't mind selling a few more. They planned to have more than 1,000 ready before 11 a.m. this morning when the doors opened.

Jeff Harris of Goldsboro, a rookie compared to some of the volunteers with only eight years under his belt, will be manning the eight cookers all day.

And even after all that frying, he will still eat his share, he said.

"I eat fish while I cook it," he said, patting his stomach and grinning. "You have to sample the first piece, and then you have to keep testing it as you go along. It is just part of the job."