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Fairview Baptist: A 35-year Tradition of Helping Fredericksburg Families Through Annual Benefit Oyster Roast

Posted: 4/15/19 at 9:20am. Article by Art Blankenship.

On March 16, over 1,350 people gathered at the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fairground. They weren’t there to attend a fair, but rather to help a family in need.

This was not a unique gathering but a happening that occurs each year to provide hope and financial support to an individual or family in the greater Fredericksburg area. Known at the Benefit Oyster Roast, this fundraising event has been held annually for the past 35 years.

The Oyster Roast is sponsored and hosted by Fairview Baptist and River Club churches in conjunction with White Oak Equipment, Inc. Since its inception over $1 million has been raised to help others in the community.

The event is unique in that there is no charge to attend the event; rather, donations are accepted at the door, in advance, or even after the event. All donations go to the family or individual selected as the beneficiary, as all expenses for the event are paid for by various individuals, companies, and organizations in the area.

The event grew out of a social event for the men of Friendship Baptist Church in Fredericksburg. For several years Frank McCarty, former owner of White Oak Equipment, hosted an oyster roast as a social for the men of the church.  In 1985, Frank had an employee who had cancer. Frank felt that God was calling him to do something to help his employee.

So rather than provide oysters as a social event, Frank offered to clean his shop area at White Oak Equipment and use it to hold a benefit with the help of people of the church.  He thought this was a one-time event, but the following year a young man in his church was injured, so the benefit was held again and the annual Benefit Oyster Roast was born.

For the first eight years, Frank and White Oak Equipment paid for all expenses associated with the event, thereby allowing all the donations to go to the selected recipient. That year some of Frank’s business associates saw the merits of what was being accomplished through the Oyster Roast and came forward and offered to help with the expenses.

Since then more than 20 individuals and companies have stepped forward (without being solicited) to underwrite the expenses. In addition, each year over 30 other companies, organizations, and individuals have provided products, services, and advertising.

Though church members provide the majority of the 150-plus volunteers required to plan and staff the Oyster Roast which serves 1,200-1,500 people each year, volunteers come from local businesses and civic organizations including scout troops, American Heritage Girls, local rescue squads, and the Sheriff’s Department.

This blending of church, businesses, and civic groups for a greater good truly makes this a community event.

This year’s 35th Annual Benefit Oyster Roast was to benefit one-year-old Amirah Raye Nicholson. Amirah and her identical twin sister, Nevaeh, were born prematurely in March 2018 at Mary Washington Hospital, Fredericksburg. Even though she was only 1 pound 9 ounces, the doctors were optimistic she would develop fully given time. However, this has not been the case. At one week old she required a ventilator and remains on life support to survive.  

There is a banner that hangs over the entranceway that captures the spirit of the Oyster Roast. It reads, “Serving God by Serving Others.” So far this year, over $25,000 has been raised, with funds continuing to come in.

This story was written by Art Blankenship, coordinator of the Benefit Oyster Roast and member of Fairview Baptist Church, a BGAV congregation in Fredericksburg, VA. 

Do you have a story to share about something your church is doing? We’d love to publish it on our blog. To submit a brief article, email it with a photo to Jennifer Law at jennifer.law@bgav.org.