Shriners fish fry is a Wilson institution

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Cadets, scouts, students and other volunteers worked shoulder-to-shoulder as a team to assemble thousands of meals Friday at the Wilson County Shrine Club fish fry.

“It’s just a great teamwork where everybody comes together,” said Edwin R. “Teeny” Jones, club potentate for the year.

Jones was among those making deliveries to area businesses whose employees had made advance orders.

“We have got over a thousand plates for commercial sales going out to businesses around here,” Jones said. “There is a lot of work that goes into the fish fry long before the day of the fish fry, as you can imagine. There is a lot of coordination with the people doing the cooking. We have to order the foods. The main thing is with any large function, you have got to sell the tickets prior to the day. You can see everybody hustling around here today.”

About 75 volunteers took part in the all-day fundraiser.

Bonnie Murphy of Wilson said it’s hard work, but it’s all for a good cause, primarily to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children

“I have to put the french fries in the plate,” Murphy said. “Each one of us has a job. One does the fish, one does the french fries. One does the slaw and one does the hushpuppies.”

The line workers wore thick gloves to keep from getting burned by whiting fillets and potatoes hot out of the fryer.

“We’ve done this so many times, we could do it in our sleep,” said Jo Ann Poythress of Wilson, who comes out year after year.

Melita Bulluck of Rocky Mount, a recruitment and retention officer for the Civil Air Patrol’s Tar River Composite Squadron, brought cadets who were joined by Boy Scouts, members of the Fike High School Junior ROTC and students from Wilson Early College Academy.

“We want them to see us giving back too as senior members and being able to do something for the community and get them involved in it,” Bulluck said. “I love working with people and getting something done.”

The club has about 100 members in Wilson.

“Our biggest thing is the Shriners Hospital for Children,” said club member J.B. Price. “We have 22 of those across the nation. The biggest one we service is down in Greenville, South Carolina. We transport those kids on a regular basis not only there, but to Cincinnati, Philadelphia, anywhere else they need to go, at no cost to the patient. Nothing at all for the child. We put his parents up in a hotel. The service at the hospital is all taken care of. We feed them, the whole nine yards.”

Club member Jimmy Edmundson said the fish fry has been going on most of his life.

“I’m 78 years old and I can remember when they used to do it when I was 14 years old, so it’s been a long, long time,” Edmundson said.

Edmundson is one of the “Road Runners” who transport the children and their families to and from the hospitals.

“I have made 134 trips to the hospital,” Edmonds said. “That’s transporting a child. If anybody would ever go and see the work that that hospital does, if any Shriner asked them to buy a fish fry ticket, they wouldn’t hesitate for the good work that they do. It’s amazing.”

The journeys run anywhere from 700 to 800 miles round-trip.

“Sometimes we do it in one day. Sometimes we do it in two days,” Edmundson said. “There are times when we have to carry them to the burn center in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is a three-day trip.”

Edmundson said it’s demanding, but it’s something that the Road Runners really enjoy.

“To see a child, when you bring them back, when they shake your hand and hug your neck, it’s well worth it,” Edmundson said. “There is no monetary value of what we do. All volunteer and all rewarding. It makes you feel like you are part of something that is very important in the community.”