Grace Lutheran annual fundraiser ready to feed multitudes again

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 4, 2015

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

Mike Yost is a man with big ideas. He’s a longtime lineman with Duke Energy, but says he does his best thinking while mowing the lawn at Grace Lutheran Church.

These days, he’s thinking about the church’s seventh-annual Fish Fry Fundraiser, set for 4-8 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 10.

Indeed, the fundraiser in some way involves each member of the close-knit congregation, whether it’s setting up tents, donating money, greeting diners, baking cakes, parking cars or frying fish.

Yost is the event’s coordinator, but is quick to point out he doesn’t work alone.

“I could not do this without the community,” Yost says.

The 20-member committee spends just about the whole year planning the fish fry, Yost says. “I have good people working with me.”

One of the first orders of business is selecting the person who will benefit from the event.

This year, that person is 4-year-old Ava Reece, who lives with her parents, Dustin and Amanda, in Enochville. Ava has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and attends Franklin Heights Baptist Church. Her congregation and The Brook are helping with this year’s fundraiser. Ava is receiving treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, and the fundraiser will cover expenses not covered by insurance.

Ray Rivers and his family will also be on hand. Rivers, a member of Grace, was the beneficiary of last year’s fish fry, which had the biggest attendance ever.

Yost continues to think big. The congregation served 1,400 people in 2014. This year, Yost is aiming for 2,000.

“Mike is the visionary,” notes the Rev. Jerome Cloninger, Grace’s pastor.

The congregation has added three more fryers to its collection, Cloninger says, in addition to the four it will borrow from Trinity Lutheran Church in Landis.

Tickets for the fish fry are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Plates include fish, slaw, hushpuppies and dessert, with tea, lemonade or water. If you’re not a fish fan, fear not. You can purchase two hot dogs with fixin’s and dessert for $5.

Along with plenty of good food, the event includes outdoor activities for children and music by The Extraordinaires. Grace’s Amy Miller is a member of this local group.

“They draw a crowd regardless of the event,” Yost says.

Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs to sit and enjoy the music and the afternoon fellowship.

Although there’s rain this weekend, the weather forecast is for sunny skies next weekend. The event will happen rain or shine, Yost says. “I got 1,500 pounds of fish I gotta thaw out.”

Covered outdoor seating and parking shuttle services are available. The day also includes basket raffles, and half and half raffle, and a silent auction.

Cloninger emphasizes that everything is donated and paid for up front, so every dollar raised goes to Ava and her family.

The fish fry started out as a ministry of the church’s Lutheran Men in Mission group, but long ago outgrew that group’s efforts, Yost says. “It started out as sort of a small idea, and it got too much for the Lutheran Men.”

“It’s just a passion for me,” he adds.

Yost thanks Locke Fire Department, Jeff Isenhour and Donald Rand for providing lights, the Highway Patrol for providing a vehicle, and the Sheriff’s Department for providing security.

It’s a good thing Grace has such as big yard to mow.

“It’s very relaxing for me to ride and think,” Yost says.

Who knows what he’ll come up with next year?

For more information about the Fish Fry Fundraiser, call Grace Lutheran Church at 704-857-8641.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.