McFriends surpasses $100K mark

VIENNA – McFriends Fellowship has raised $101,164 for Wood County churches.

The milestone was reached Wednesday morning when the 111 men in attendance at a breakfast meeting at Fellowship Baptist Church in Vienna contributed $1,619 to the cause.

The McFriends Fellowship group started meeting at churches in Vienna and Parkersburg in about 1998. That first group of 12 people raised $14, said Paul Booth, group leader.

Since then, area men have been meeting 10 times a year, taking a break in July and August, at local churches for Christian fellowship, prayer, a short sermon, breakfast, a joke or two and the donation of “J, or Jesus, Dollars.” The J Dollars are dollar bills with the letter “j” in the serial number.

Larger bills and checks are accepted.

The donated money is given to the churches for projects such as mission work, church camps, food pantries and families in need.

The attendees are from various religious denominations and churches.

The idea for the Christian fellowship group originated with the late Jesse Thorpe, who was a member of Vienna Baptist Church, and the Rev. Bob Mays of Independent Baptist Church in Vienna.

Discussions on meeting regularly as a fellowship group and collecting money for local churches took place at the McDonald’s in Vienna, hence the McFriends name.

The group of generally older, retired men meets from 9-10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the churches in Vienna and Parkersburg.

Prayer lists are collected for distribution to churches.

At the end of the meeting, a large metal pot filled with J Dollars is presented to the church.

The largest crowd to attend a breakfast was about 124 men when Thorpe was honored, Booth said.

The largest amount raised at a breakfast was $2,882, he said.

Wednesday’s event was the group’s 168th meeting.

Joe Mazzari of Vienna has enjoyed attending the McFriends Fellowship meetings for three years.

Mazzari said Thorpe was a “phenomenal” person to start this group and he is proud how it has developed over the years.

The program has helped local churches and the community, he said.

The next McFriends Fellowship group meeting, open to new members, will be Feb. 19 at Stout Memorial United Methodist Church in Parkersburg.

It will be followed by Emmanuel Baptist Church in Parkersburg on March 19, Vienna Baptist Church on April 16, Grand Central Church of Christ on May 21 and Lynn Street Church of Christ in Parkersburg on June 18.