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Junior Auxiliary’s good works begin with shrimp

A tiny shrimp can do big things in Brookhaven.

The money raised from the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven’s annual “Peel ‘Em & Eat ‘Em” shrimp dinner funds the group’s projects for a full year.

This will be the 30th year for the annual meal, which will see 5,000 pounds of shrimp boiled in the shell and plated for pick-up.

The event is Oct. 19 from 3-7 p.m. at the Lincoln Civic Center and tickets — $15 each — are on sale now from JA members. There’s also a ticket hotline number: 601-754-4319. Plates may be available on the day of the sale, but the JAs make no guarantees.

It’s a generous city and sales are brisk.

“We raise enough money from this one fundraiser to fund all of our projects for the whole year,” JA President Juliana Adams said. “And the community enjoys it. It’s something different.”

While the menu and the recipe is still the same, the pickup location is different. They moved it to the Lincoln Civic Center this year to help with traffic flow.

“We’re hoping people will be able to get in and out a little easier,” she said.

Each plate gets a pound — precooked — of boiled shrimp prepared by K&B Seafood, baked potato salad, spicy corn on the cob and crackers with cocktail sauce.

There’s also the JA Sweet Shoppe with home baked goods from full-size cakes to individual servings for sale by cash or check.

Many are made from treasured JA recipes, like the Mississippi mud cake which has been a stable of the Sweet Shoppe for all 30 years.

“Life members do their specialties each year,” member Amy Mason said.

“Mississippi Mud was the very first year. We all had to make three, I think,” lifemember Sherry Adams said.

The shrimp dinner fundraiser started as a moneymaker for St. Francis Catholic Church School. The school closed in the 80s, and the shrimp dinner went away.

JA had an antique show and was looking for a project that would fund them for the year.

“We like that one anchor project that allows us to focus on service projects instead of focusing on raising money,” Mason said.

Some of the JA members who were Catholic suggested they restart the shrimp dinner fundraiser themselves.

After so many years, the JA members have the dinner down to a science. Committees, commitment, delegation and great organization is the only way they can get 5,000 plates out the door in four hours.

They start on the Tuesday before the big day by setting up the stations.

On Wednesday, K&B comes in and cooks the shrimp using their big rig on-site. JAs pick out the smaller ones and pack the rest into 10-pound bags, which are put back on the refrigerated truck.

“We have some that are allergic to shellfish so we have to find another job, so they scoop potato salad,” Juliana Adams said.

K&B cooks the corn, too.

Everyone shows up ready to work on the day of the sale.

“We start at 8 a.m. Thursday morning with all hands on deck,” said member Anna Johnson.

They pray first, then plate. Once the take-out containers are packed, they go back on the trucks until its almost time for pickup to start. Then they’re brought out continually as needed.

The 47 active JA members get a lot of help that day — life members, husbands, significant others and members of the Exchange Club of Brookhaven all pitch in.

“It truly is an impressive process to see how it’s all organized,” member Katie Furr said.

Since 1954, Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven has been dedicated to helping the children of Lincoln County. From literacy initiatives to financial support and everything in between, the dedicated women of JA strive to help support future generations.

“We are a group of ladies with servants’ hearts,” Adams said. “We want Brookhaven and Lincoln County to be the best that it can be. We use this opportunity and the financial resources we get from it to make a difference in our community.”