Environmental Factor, August 2007, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Annual Fish Fry Serves up Good Food and Old-time Fellowship
By Eddy Ball
More than 120 federal employees and contractors flocked to the covered picnic area at the NIEHS ball field for the annual Blacks In Government (BIG) Annual Fish Fry on June 28. Ostensibly, they came for the golden brown trout, whiting, fries, hushpuppies and sides, but the real reasons most people return year after year are the intangibles.
The fish fry is a time to gather with friends from across the Institute and across the pond and enjoy a chance to talk, laugh, meet new people and catch up on new developments. This year, the event only sold tickets in advance. A smaller crowd and the summer heat failed to dampen the spirit of traditional Southern fellowship - which is what this modest fundraiser is really all about.
According to Chapter President Veronica Godfrey, a biologist in the NIEHS Environmental Toxicology Program, the fish fry actually raises very little money for the service organization. "The Chapter pays for the fish, oil and hush puppies, but the paper products, deserts, drinks and vegetables are in-kind donations from members," Godfrey explained.
Members also do the cooking and the clean-up, a substantial investment of sweat equity for the cook staff, such as NIEHS Stem Cell Biologist Annette Rice who braved both the heat of the day and the heat of boiling oil to prepare the fish and fries to perfection. As hard as the work is, however, the crew remains largely the same from year to year, which speaks volumes about what this event means on a personal level.
As a nonprofit service organization, BIG promotes equity in all aspects of American life, excellence in public service, and personal development opportunities for all Americans. The RTP Chapter of BIG is dedicated to preparing area young people for the future by mentoring and tutoring in the schools, developing oratory skills and providing cutting-edge training in such areas as web page design.
The local chapter, which was started at NIEHS, also sponsors Black History Month events each year and promotes education, professional development, support and networking. Its 22 members are government employees at NIEHS, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Army Research Office. Dues are $15 per year, and membership is open to government employees and contract employees of government agencies.
Funds raised by the organization at this year's fish fry and other events will be used to support activities for young people and chapter members to attend the regional training conferences. Several members have helped to plan this year's Annual Training Conference August 13-17 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.