ROCKINGHAM — Marshall Berry and Pat Britt of Pat’s Kitchen have helped raise thousands of dollars for people in Richmond County going through hard times such as paying for loved-ones’ expensive medical treatments for potentially deadly diseases, losing a home to disaster or raising awareness of rare children’s disorders.
“I’ll sometimes ask someone, ‘How much do you think we’re going to raise this time?’ And they’ll say something like $1,500 or $2,000,” Berry said last year. “And I say, ‘How about $10,000 to $15,000?’ The lowest we’ve ever raised was a little over $10,000. That always surprises people.”
Berry said his own health has been in decline in the past few years, and for a while he was unable to organize the benefits for which he is so well-known. But he chose to start them up again, continuing to organize as many as possible, because he said it makes him feel good to help people.
Members of the community supported Berry in his efforts to ease the financial burdens of those he was able to help by donating meat for the barbecue and chicken dinner plates that sold for $7 a piece, and Pat’s Kitchen provided the sides and worked with volunteers to get the cooking done.
A typical fundraiser would be an all-day affair, featuring musical performances by local gospel favorites such as The Cameronian Quartet, Linda and Stan Jacobs, the Bryants, Vickie Daniel and Heavenly Accord. There would be family fun to go along with the food and music, and a silent auction of donated items at the end of the day — along with a standard auction and prize drawings — would wrap things up.
Former County Commissioner Pam Dillman said that an opportunity has arisen for the community to return the favors.
“They have the largest hearts I’ve ever seen, and put everyone before themselves” Dillman said. “Every time they heard someone needed help, they were the first to rally. They raised almost $40,000 for the little Hernandez boy. They did, I think, over three fundraisers for him.”
At 15, Jonathan Hernandez was battling a bone cancer that was affecting his lungs.
“They just had the place, and the people came,” Dillman said of Britt and Berry. “(Hernandez) is doing quite well, now. He’s finished high school and he continues to live.”
Dillman said countless families have been assisted over the years by the benefit plate sales at Pat’s Kitchen.
“We have angels everywhere, and two of them are Pat Britt and Marshall,” Dillman said. “They are Richmond County’s angels, sent here to take care of folks. These people and their families would never have had the monies to go to the hospital, or for cancer research, if it hadn’t been for them.”
A special appreciation dinner for Britt and Berry is set for Sept. 17.
“Pam and Suzanne McInnis and a bunch of ladies organized this, since the 18th will be our last day here,” Berry said. “We didn’t want them to do it, but you don’t say no to Pam Dillman — or Suzanne McInnis, for that matter. They’re trying to contact all the people that we’ve helped over the years past and get them to come in that Saturday afternoon. So it’s going to be a fundraiser kind of thing, but a day of recognition.”
Berry said the event will start with music at 11 a.m. and will last until about 5 p.m.
“Betty Brigman has a bunch of singers lined up,” Berry said. “Country and gospel. There won’t be any auctions this time. It’s going to be a teary-eyed day.”
Fried chicken plates will be on sale throughout the day at $7 per plate, with homemade potato salad, green beans and dessert.
For more information, call Pam Dillman at 910-894-0376.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.