10/06/06 — Shriners fry fish to help sick children

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Shriners fry fish to help sick children

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 6, 2006 1:55 PM

Four thousand pounds of Whiting, 1,900 pounds of potato salad, 1,500 pounds of coleslaw, 1,100 pounds of hushpuppies and more than 500 manhours -- all to help 24 local children with serious illnesses.

Members of the Wayne County Shriners said the Herman Park Center is the place to be for lunch today, as the group hosts its annual fish fry from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Capt. George Raecher is in his eighth year as chairman of the event and said he expects to see thousands of Wayne County residents dining on fish today.

"As we get going here, you'll see people start to filter in," he said. "It's quite an operation. Between here and Mount Olive, we hope to sell at least 6,000 plates."

Last year, the group turned a $20,000 profit -- a figure they hope to eclipse this year, Raecher added.

"I don't think the county fair is going to hurt us that much," he said. "We're dealing with the lunchtime crowd here in Goldsboro."

All proceeds from the event will help foot medical bills for the 24 young patients at the local Shriners Hospital.

"We've got one child who was hit by a car ... children with deformed limbs," Raecher said. "When you go to the hospital, you see brave, brave little children going through pretty serious things."

Wayne Edwards said the event was really about them, not the food.

"Anytime you're working for the children it's exciting," he said.

As he fired up the fryers with a blowtorch, the 17-year member of the group said the tradition of fish frys in Goldsboro and Wayne County has lasted more than 50 years.

"People have gone off and done their golf tournaments and all, but the fish have always been our bread and butter," Edwards said. "Some would start frying other things besides fish, but the fish has always done better than the chicken. It's a known tradition that Shriners have fish fries. It's always been real good for us."

This year, they hope that means a complete sellout.

Among the items delivered to the park by Pate Dawson sales consultant Danny Pate was a box of 8,000 trays.

"If everything is used, and we hope it will be, we should sell all 8,000," he said.

But all that depends on the customers -- and the size of their appetites.

Jeff Harris has manned the fryer since 1993 and said those who chose to dine with the Shriners today can expect some of the best fish they've ever had.

Maybe it's his simple cooking method that makes them so good, some said.

"When they float, they're done," Harris said, laughing. "You've got to sample from just about every tray that comes out. That's why I look like I do."

For those on the go and others who hope to avoid rain, if it falls, Raecher said a drive-thru will be set up inside Herman Park.

"Sometimes, on the rainy days, the drive-thru proves to be right profitable," he said.

And there will be treats to satisfy the sweet tooth, too. For decades, the Shrinetts, wives of the Shriners, have held a bake sale along side their husbands.

"They do so much for us," Raecher said.

For the volunteers, giving back is its own reward, they said.

And for Raecher, being a member of the Shriners has given him a chance to do just that.

"After you do this for awhile, you realize that this is probably the best organization you've ever been a part of."