The first day of the new year was an important one for members of the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club as they hosted their annual New Year Lunch fundraiser, providing the traditional Southern meal of ham, collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread.
The fundraiser, held Friday at First United Methodist Church in Elkin, helps provide three $1,000 scholarships to a student at each of the area’s high schools, East Wilkes, Elkin and Starmount, noted Rotarians helping with the lunch.
Assisting the Rotarians were member of the Elkin High School Interact Club, an outreach of Rotary.
“The crowd looks bigger this year,” said Mark Barden, who helped organize the event along with Warren Bates and Steve Wells. Typically 200 to 300 people are served during the two-hour lunch, with some opting to eat at the church and others getting plates to take with them.
“They just think it’s a good thing we’re doing,” added Bill Blackley as he showed off a check he’d just received from a patron who ordered three plates ($10 each) but wrote a check for $450 as a donation to the cause.
Barden said the club always has plenty of food, and it makes extra collards and bags it to sell for freezing and eating later. “We’ll sell them the next few weeks, because we’ll go ahead and freeze them,” he said of any leftovers.
The Rotarians spent all day Thursday setting up in the fellowship hall and cooking collards, which cooked for six hours and then were reheated in pots over the stove on Friday. The ham and peas were cooked fresh Friday.
For many patrons, attending the club’s luncheon has become a tradition, but for others it was a first-time venture.
Joyce Nance and Margaret Hinson, who celebrated her 92nd birthday just two days before the new year arrived, traveled to Elkin from State Road to get a taste of the Rotary’s meal for the first time. “Everything is good,” said Nance.
She said she grew up eating the traditional new year meal, but her family used turnip and mustard greens rather than collards. “We had plenty of black-eyed peas because we grew them,” she recalled.
Each of the items in the meal are said to bring good luck in the new year – the collards represent paper money, the black-eyed peas are for coins, the cornbread represents gold and the ham is for rooting forward through the year.
But Nance said it is her belief that “God does that,” as far as bringing the good fortunes.
Nance, who will be 80 in just a few days, said what she looks forward to in 2016 is “to be healthy, and still be able to go to church.”
“I don’t make any resolutions. I just look forward to normal living,” said Hinson.
Christy Fritz, day manager, and Mildred Edwards, night manager of The ARK, attended the luncheon together. Again, it was a first time for them both.
“I came for the collards, and it’s a good cause,” said Fritz. “We work at The ARK, and we were blessed to be given the tickets.”
Both she and Edwards grew up eating the traditional new year meal as well. “It’s what I grew up doing all my life,” said Edwards, who added she likes to think the meal helps with good fortune, but wasn’t sure if it really did.
“We are blessed and heavily favored,” she said.
Fritz said she’s looking forward to happiness in 2016, “mentally, spiritually and physically.”
For Edwards, she said, “I’m looking forward to taking better care of myself. That’s my goal this year to become healthier, have healthier habits.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 36-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.