Seven Augusta Commission members will roll up their sleeves to serve fried fish, fixins' and sweet tea Friday evening at Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center.
The $10-a-plate meal will raise money for the center, which just two months ago, amid flagging donations, had faced closing its food pantry. Shiloh Director Elizabeth Jones said she is grateful for the help.
"Commissioners have told me they're not just serving a district, they're serving the citizens of Augusta," she said. "We're going to make this fun and show everyone we can work together as a community."
Local radio personalities Minnesota Fattz and Cher Best will entertain the crowd with music, a live broadcast, games and prizes.
"It would be great for Augusta to come out and support this," Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. "It's for a worthy cause."
Shiloh opened as an orphanage for black children in 1908 and today is a senior center, food pantry and youth-tutoring facility. Serving one of Augusta's poorest neighborhoods, it is supported by community donations.
In January, reeling from a recessionary drop in contributions, Jones had appealed to the commission for extra money to ease a strained balance sheet and repair a leaking roof.
After the commission told Jones it had no money to give, the community responded instead. Several news outlets covered the story, and Fattz campaigned for funds on-air.
"I was really touched by what Shiloh had done over the years for those less fortunate," said Fattz, the program director for WPRW and WKSP-FM. "To close now ... it really got to me. I know people who live in the area, and I wanted to help."
Donations poured in from as far away as Beaufort, S.C., and came from business owners, commissioners and a former mayor, Fattz said. Some donors challenged others to give matching money. Milledge Road's Family Dollar store took up a collection from customers.
Jones said the response was overwhelming.
"In three months, we've been able to raise enough money to make our balance sheet look really healthy again," she said.
Shiloh's food pantry is now full, Jones said, and a couple of churches are holding monthly food drives to keep it that way.
The center's roof is another story. It was last replaced in 1999 with shingles rated for a 10-year lifetime, according to Guilfoyle.
"It's totally rotted through," Jones said. "We're going to have to replace the entire roof, and it's going to cost $20,000-plus."
Guilfoyle suggested the center hold a fish fry. He loaned his own cooking equipment for the meal.
"During my campaign we held a lot of fish fries, and we were pretty successful," he said. "I told Ms. Jones, I'll give you my time and do what it takes."
Jones said it might take a couple of fish fries to get there. "It's going to be fun, so come over and eat some fish," she said.