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Fellowship House catfish dinner

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It was cold when we started catching the 250-plus catfish it takes.

CATFISH --
All you can eat Oct. 13.
I got three fat deer in the freezer, time to take a break for something important. Like a great meal after eating my own cooking while Jeanne and the family were in Gulf Shores.

Y'all like catfish and all the trimmins that go with a great catfish dinner? Shoot! Who doesn't? But just in case you are that un-American, you can eat some dead chicken. So tell whoever does the cookin at your place, they have tomorrow night off.

See, Thursday, Oct. 13, starting about 6:00, is the third annual, Fellowship House Catfish Dinner.

The menu includes: fried catfish and chicken, white beans, cole slaw, onion rings, French fries, cooked apples, tea and water plus a variety of deserts. You can't beat that.

Since The Fellowship House (FH) is one of those 501(c)3 or something deals, it is even tax deductible. It will take place at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center-East/West Building, starting at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $25 per person for all you can eat. You can't beat that.

Wait a minoozle. You don't know what the FH, is? Okay, I'll tell you, then, I'll tell you couple secrets.

The Fellowship House has sat quietly at 206 South College Street a long time. In fact, it has been there since 1913.

It has served many purposes and worn many hats. First, it was a private residence. Then, for a while, it was a school for veterans returning from World War II. It has been rumored, for a time, it was a residence for nursing students. Now, it is in need of financial support.

Today, the FH is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. until about 9:15 p.m. It serves many purposes.

First, it provides transitional housing for up to 12 men. These men, truly have no place else to go. Some are fresh out of jail, some, fresh out of treatment, others, just fresh out of options.

All have one thing in common. They are all suffering some form of substance abuse addiction, either alcohol, drugs or both. This is their chance to get clean.

Daily, the FH serves as a meeting place. Seven days a week, there is a Bible study Tues.-Sun. at 7:25 a.m. and on Mondays at 6:25.

On Sunday, at 10:45, there is an extended Bible Study, usually led by Dr. Larry Locke or Dr. George Robertson.

It also features free, fried chicken and trimmings, hence the nickname, "Chicken Church", and is open to the public.

For some, this is the best meal they will get all week. Each week, there are 22 meetings for drug or alcohol addiction. Over 100, men and women will pass through the door on any given day.

Residents, all male, are given just what they need: A warm bed, hot shower, clothes and some food if needed, help finding a job, kitchen privileges and most of all structure.

Each resident is expected to conform to a variety of rules designed to lead them back to a clean, productive place in society.

The rules include attending a daily meeting, finding a job, staying clean and sober and undergoing random drug testing. Some stay a few days, some a few weeks and some a few months. Some succeed, many don't. That is the basics.

The Fellowship House now consists of two main houses, an enlarged parking lot and two, condemned houses that need to be torn down and expansion is needed. Due to the increase in need, quite honestly, the facility is often too small to accommodate the demand.

Each meeting group pays a reasonable rent from collections but contributions are strictly voluntary.

The coffee is always free and there is no charge to attend. Attendees talk about their struggles in an open and honest way. They provide help and encouragement to others-especially the newcomers who are just starting to break free from the destructive life. It is here that a person can see that his or her problems are not unique...they are not alone.

The steps to recovery are simple -- not easy -- simple. But it takes encouragement to follow them and that encouragement is available 365/12 at the Fellowship house.

Now, here is secret #1. I am one of the success stories. I am, you see, an alcoholic. I haven't had a drink in over six years, thanks to some initials- AA, the FH, JGS, (Jeanne Gail Sloan -- my wife who stuck by me through it all) and God...not in that order. These folks literally saved my life.

Now here is secret #2. Judge Dave E. Durham and I caught all the catfish and we did it in just one trip.

David Denney and group are doing the cooking and all the women who have supported us are pitching in. So you see, this really is an outdoor story.

I expect to see you there. You can get tickets in advance, call Kris Warmath at (615)449-3891 or at the door.

If you cannot attend but wish to help, tax deductible donations can be made simply sending a check of any size to: The Fellowship House, 206 S. College Street, Lebanon, TN 37087. Make check Payable to The Fellowship House.

Any donation will be greatly appreciated.

As Kris Warmath said, "Think of it as an investment in Lebanon." I second that, I too, dang sure appreciate it.

Contact the author at jsloan1944@gmail.com

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Fellowship House, James E. Ward Ag Center, John L. Sloan, Outdoors, Sloan
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