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Friendship the Fish Fry Way

By Shannon Baker
July 2008

During most of the event, Kimberly Peterson of NIEHS was hard at work frying French fries.
During most of the event, Kimberly Peterson of NIEHS was hard at work frying French fries. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
The entreé was fried to golden-brown perfection.
The entreé was fried to golden-brown perfection. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Veterans of several BIG fish fries, the Georges, Margaret of NIEHS and Michael of EPA, worked together on food preparation.
Veterans of several BIG fish fries, the Georges, Margaret of NIEHS and Michael of EPA, worked together on food preparation. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Bill Jirles and Annette Rice took a much deserved break from cooking and enjoyed the fellowship at BIG's Annual Fish Fry.
Bill Jirles and Annette Rice took a much deserved break from cooking and enjoyed the fellowship at BIG's Annual Fish Fry. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Many of the attendees were veterans of previous fish fries, but newcomers, such as these interns from EPA, are always welcome.
Many of the attendees were veterans of previous fish fries, but newcomers, such as these interns from EPA, are always welcome. Shown, left to right, are Alycia Graves, Tiffiney Benton, and Johnie Blackwell. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Despite record-breaking heat and a Code Orange ozone-advisory, nearly 100 federal employees gathered under the covered picnic area at the NIEHS ball field on June 5 for the Blacks In Government (BIG) Annual Fish Fry. Naturally, the perfectly prepared fried flounder, fries, hushpuppies and sides attracted hungry co-workers, but the real reason gatherers return every year is to fellowship with one another and raise money for local scholarships.

The nonprofit service organization has been hosting the Annual Fish Fry since 1987, and tickets are usually sold in advance. The organization provides the food for the event, but the refreshments, plates and utensils are donated by members. Along with gathering the supplies,  BIG(http://www.bignet.org/) Exit NIEHS Website members do the cooking and cleaning for the event. NIEHS members, including Kimberly Peterson and Annette Rice, took time away from their busy day to fry up hushpuppies and serve others. BIG promotes equity in all aspects of American life, excellence in public service and personal development opportunities for all Americans.   

Although the crowd remains largely the same year after year, this year's gathering attracted a few newcomers, along with a group of interns from EPA.

BIG currently has 30 members from the NIEHS, National Center for Health Statistics, Army Research Office, Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. Membership is open to both government and contract employees of government agencies. Annual dues are $15 and national dues are $55 per year. Life membership can be obtained by paying a one time fee of $300.

BIG donates a portion of its proceeds for scholarships. The proceeds from last year were awarded to the Durham Nativity School. A decision has not yet been made about where the proceeds from this year's fish fry will be donated.

BIG also sponsors Black History Month events each year and is currently working with the Durham Chapter of The Links, Incorporated to collect shoes for scholarships. The Shoes for Scholarship drive was held at NIEHS from June 12-17. The Links were collecting dress, casual and athletic shoes in good condition for both adults and children. The shoes donated will help families in underdeveloped countries. Their goal was to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes with the proceeds going to benefit the Endowed Scholarship Fund at North Carolina Central University.

Veronica Godfrey, a biologist in the NIEHS Environmental Toxicology Program, has been the local chapter's president for the past two years. When asked about the turnout she replied, "The fish fry was very successful, and our chapter appreciates the support of the entire NIEHS and EPA community."

(Shannon Baker is a rising senior at Peace College in Raleigh who spent a three-week internship in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison. She is currently working part time in the NIEHS Office of the Director.)



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