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Area celebrities ready to serve the public for BARL

A couple of years back, she dressed up as Donald Trump. Before that, she won the best-dressed award for waiting tables as Sarah Palin.

But this year, Rep. Becky Currie isn’t feeling as political. With a little less than two weeks to go before the annual Brookhaven Animal Rescue League Celebrity Dinner fundraiser, she’s thinking about dragging some girlfriends with her and dressing up as the Sanderson sisters from the Bette Midler Halloween film “Hocus Pocus” and waiting tables in witch’s garb, with ridiculous hair.

“I’ve volunteered as a waiter just about every year they’ve done it — I love helping BARL, and the dinner is a fun time,” Currie said. “People come in a good mood and ready to spend their money to help take care of the animals.”

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the group’s biggest fundraiser, in which local “celebrities” dress up in costume and volunteer their time waiting tables at the catered dinner. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Civic Center on Oct. 23. Tickets are $25 each, and can be purchased at Bank of Franklin, First Bank, Road and Track Powersports, Brookway Dental or by calling BARL at 601-757-1057.

This year’s celebrity waiter list features several local businessmen and women, including Susan Gabbert and Martha Jo Kent from Homochitto Hollow Gunworks, the reigning BARL Waiter of the Year team. Also waiting hand and foot on dinner guests are Jay and Bethany Ballard, Brookway Dental; Anne Houston Craig, Magnolia Blues; Joseph Durr, candidate for chancery judge; Carol Gary, Loyd Star Attendance Center; state representative Vince Mangold; Katie Nations and Jillian Ricceri, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce; Karen Rogers; Sherri Mathis; Quinn Jordan of the Lincoln Civic Center; Carl and Malisia Smith, King’s Daughters Medical Center; Johnny Smith, Johnny Smith Photography; Don and Sarah Underwood; Bob Watson and staff, Brookhaven Animal Hospital.

Also waiting tables in 2018 are representatives from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, First Bank, Gator Signs, Regions Bank, Sullivan Ford and Toyota of Brookhaven.

The dinner will be catered by La Mariposa Restaurant, with Georgia Blue Bakery serving desert and Broma’s Deli providing ice tea.

The celebrity dinner will be accompanied by a live and silent auction with close to 200 items up for bid, including Drew Brees-autographed memorabilia, baseballs and caps signed by local MLB players Corey Dickerson and Hunter Renfroe, 10 speed passes to Disney World, eight tickets to the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament, a Henry Golden Boy .22-caliber rifle and other items.

“I’m real excited about the Drew Brees football. How much is it worth? I have no idea — a lot, I hope,” said BARL Secretary Rusty Adcock.

Adcock said BARL is expecting to hit its annual target for guests, around 250 people. The celebrity dinner is the organization’s biggest fundraiser and accounts for around 25 percent of its annual revenue, he said.

BARL’s shelter on North Park Lane in the old industrial park houses, treats and adopts out around 1,200 animals per year, Adcock said, and the costs add up quickly. The approximately 50 dogs and 15 cats the shelter houses at any given time cost between $125 and $150 to process, spay or neuter, vaccinate and adopt out — the $85 adoption fee for dogs and $75 for cats helps defray some of the costs, but the price of feeding, treating and transporting the animals is high. BARL has recently begun transporting many animals to shelters in the northern U.S., where the number of strays is much lower than in the South and adoptable animals are in demand, Adcock said.

“Without the money we raise on the celebrity dinner, we’d be struggling is where we’d be,” Adcock said. “Any responsible group is going to scale back and do what their budget tells them to do, but because of this event and how much it’s grown and been supported, we’ve been able to help more animals. Thankfully, we’ve been able to expand our mission.”