Some churches are content holding a few services a week with some philanthropy thrown in here and there, but Antioch Baptist Church has bigger fish to fry.
Fish Fry Friday is back at Antioch, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1415 Holloway St. The church’s fish fry has been serving locals and raising money to combat recidivism, fund educational centers and support the church since 2009. Recidivism is the tendency for people getting out of prison to relapse into criminal behavior, and Rev. Michael Delano Page started the fish fry to help fight it.
“We started because we were supporting a transitional home for people coming out of prison,” he says. “The fish fry has been something that people really enjoy, so we’ve kept doing it.”
At the fish fry you can dine in, take out and make delivery orders for parties greater than five. Page delivers the orders himself to any local establishment or group. Past deliveries have been made to the Durham County Department of Public Health, daycares, public schools and family gatherings. Call Page at 919-949-4022 to request a delivery.
You can expect the menu at any Antioch fish fry to consist of fresh fish from Capital Seafood Market, a starch, vegetables, bread, a drink and a dessert for $8 total. Chef Fred White says that cooking for people makes him happy.
“I’m 78 and I’ve been cooking since I was 12,” he says. “My wife and I used to run a catering business. As we get older we don’t cater as much, but I still like to cook.”
White says he started cooking because of mishaps he would have in his childhood summers.
“I was raised on a farm, so usually everyone would be out working,” he says, “but two summers in a row I broke my wrist, so while everyone else was out in the field, I was inside cooking.”
White isn’t the only one happy to work the eight-hour shift – many of the chefs and servers say they like volunteering at the church. Maryl Sims has been working at the fish fry for about three years, and she says she’s glad to be part of the team.
“I came here from New York in 1996 and joined Antioch in 1998,” she says. “There’s no better place in the world!”
When Sims joined the team working at the fish fry about three years ago, the money was being used to support a reentry program to help people who are getting out of prison adjust back into society.
“With the reentry program, people don’t have to spend money to buy a house or food until they get back on their feet,” she says.
Carolyn Henderson is a fish fry regular who has been supporting Antioch since the beginning.
“I’ve been coming to the fish fry for as long as I can remember – in fact, longer than I can remember!” she says with a laugh.
The profits from Antioch’s fish fry events have gone to several different causes over the years, but last Friday’s went towards new robes for the church’s choir. Customers agree that they’re glad to help the church raise money, but it’s the food and community that keeps them coming back.
“The food is delicious – it’s fantastic,” Durham resident Gladys Burnett says. “The people here are very receptive and warm, and the ambiance is nice.”
Retired NCCU English professor Dr. Ruth Kennedy says Page is her beloved former student, and she’s happy to support him and Antioch.
“I love the warm, joyful atmosphere,” she says.
Antioch’s fish fry has been growing and serving Durham for years, and the customers and volunteers say they hope to see it grow even more.
“It takes all of us to make it work,” Sims says, “but we do, and there’s no place I’d be.”