McFriends continues fundraising tradition

Wednesday morning, 74 men gathered at Lynn Street Church of Christ in Parkersburg for Christian fellowship.

They were continuing a tradition that has raised $89,564 for churches in Vienna and Parkersburg since 1997.

The attendees, from various religious denominations and churches, donated $963 in “J, or Jesus, Dollars” to Lynn Street Church of Christ to be used for the church’s mission work in the Dominican Republic.

The McFriends Fellowship Group is looking forward to reaching $100,000 in J Dollar donations next year.

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, except July and August, at 10 churches in Vienna and Parkersburg.

The churches prepare a breakfast for the attendees, prayers are said, announcements are made, jokes are told and the minister provides a sermon. 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 minister. The J Dollars are dollar bills with the letter “j” in the serial number.

“We let the preachers make the decision on how money collected is spent,” said Paul Booth, McFriends leader. On Wednesday, the men prayed for Booth’s speedy recovery from a health issue.

Fred Mayer of Vienna has been attending McFriends meetings for four years. He likes the idea of people working together “to help folks in need.”

Ed Reese of Vienna was filling in for Booth on Wednesday. He said a lot of the money collected at the fellowship breakfasts goes to church youth groups and for missionary efforts.

Reese remembered when about 15 friends met in the beginning years of the fellowship group. Meetings now usually attract 80-100 people, he said.

John Dobson of Vienna attended the seventh McFriends meeting and hasn’t missed one since. The group has met 162 times.

“It’s good Christian fellowship,” Dobson said. “The churches do a lot with the donations – sending kids to church camp and helping missionaries.”

Dobson noted the main focus of the group is “to lead people to Christ.”

As J Dollars filled the pot, Dobson told me, “We’ll take anything but Euros and livestock.”

“We will take J checks on the way out,” Hoss Ridgeway, pastor of Lynn Street Church of Christ, jokingly told the men.

The next McFriends Fellowship Group meeting, open to new members, will be Sept. 18 at New Hope Baptist Church off Rosemar Road.

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Sarah Jalbert of Parkersburg delivered music to my ears this week. The River Cities Symphony Orchestra, of which Jalbert is secretary/public relations director, filled the Lafayette Hotel’s ballroom for a “New York City Nights Pops Concert” June 7. It was standing-room only and more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate concertgoers. Jalbert estimated 220-225 people attended, including many “new faces,” compared to the average RCSO concert attendance of 140-150 people. The organization, which bills itself as the Mid-Ohio Valley’s hometown symphony, now has money in its budget, after struggling financially for a while, Jalbert said. In 2011, the RCSO canceled its September and November concerts and postponed the opening of its 2011-12 season because of financial difficulties. Kudos to the individuals and organizations that have brought the symphony back to life. The next concert featuring music from Rameau, Bach, Holst and Haydn will be 3 p.m. Oct. 26 at First Presbyterian Church in Parkersburg.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com