Tom Wolford shows off a pork butt like those he and a team of volunteers will cook for the annual Eight O’ May luncheon (and takeout) to be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Friday, May 6. The dedicated group will begin cooking 200 pounds or more of pork the day before. Photo by: Kelly Tippett
April 27, 2011 11:32:00 AM
"I love to cook, and I always have," said Tom Wolford of Columbus. That fortunate fact has been a big part of the Eight O'' May fundraiser at St. Paul''s Episcopal Church every spring for the past 15 years.
The annual Episcopal Church Women event dating back almost 150 years is most often associated with delicious homemade chicken salad and an elegant luncheon, but barbecue lovers have plenty to look forward to Friday, May 6, as well.
At a camp in rural southwestern Lowndes County, more than 200 pounds of pork, all donated by Wolford, will be expertly prepared by the chief cook and a team that has, for the past several years, consisted primarily of his sons, Bubba Tom, of Starkville, and Bob, of Gulfport, as well as Todd Gale and Web Gholson of Columbus.
"It''s been kind of an annual pilgrimage," remarked Wolford, a member of St. Paul''s since the early 1970s and currently CEO of Willowbrook Byzantine Nurse, a healthcare business headquartered in Memphis, Tenn.
"We''ll try to start cooking about 10 a.m. the day before the event, and we''ll cook until about midnight," he explained. "This gives us about 12 to 14 hours of actual cooking time, and then we let the meat rest on the pit until 6 or 6:30 the next morning, when we start chopping it, to deliver to the church by about 9 a.m."
Wolford''s cooking process includes a robust vinegar-based basting sauce he refined himself. Once the meat is chopped, the sauce is drizzled over the top again. At the church, still warm from the grill, the barbecue will be offered in lunches, with stuffed eggs, potato salad, dill pickles, roll and brownie. Chicken salad plates will be served with stuffed eggs, potato chips, sweet pickles, crackers and a brownie. Admission for the luncheon will be $10; takeout meals will be $8.
By the end of the day May 6, the church will have prepared approximately 850 to 900 lunches and hosted a bake sale, as well. All proceeds benefit outreach and ministry projects.
A greater cause
Susan Jones, president of St. Paul''s Episcopal Church Women, elaborated on the impact of the Eight O'' May event.
"Some of the groups we''re able to help as a result of the luncheon and bake sale are Greater Columbus Learning Center, Good Samaritan Clinic, Habitat for Humanity, Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, HEARTS after-school tutoring program, Honduras Medical Mission, St. Paul''s Episcopal School and Episcopal Relief and Development," she said. Wolford''s donation of barbecue meat and supplies provides a generous boost to the amount that goes directly to work in the church community.
Eight O'' May is a church-wide effort. From boiling hens to bussing tables, there''s a job for everyone, female and male.
"The day of our luncheon our congregation dons work clothes and aprons instead of Sunday clothes," said long-time volunteer Carmen Montgomery. "They change the Parish Hall into a banquet hall for our community. Conference rooms are filled with paper sacks and boxes for take-away; halls are lined with tables and workers filling orders. The kitchen is covered with plates full of delicious barbecue and chicken salad."
Jones added, "This is a time that everybody comes together to do whatever they''re asked to do, whether it''s cooking, serving, cleaning tables or bringing flowers from their gardens."
The dine-in luncheon in the Parish Hall will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Takeout orders, especially popular with businesses, may be picked up between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Barbecue and chicken salad may then be purchased by the quart, if quantities allow.
A bake sale, chaired by Ann Sparkman and Betty West Land, with homemade cakes, pies, cheese straws, jellies, breads, brownies and more, will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Pre-orders for takeout lunches are encouraged. Send your order by email by 11 a.m. May 6 to Eightofmaystpauls@gmail.com. Include name, time of pick-up, number and type of plates, and a contact phone number.
Or, place orders by phone at 662-240-0187 or 662-328-6673 May 4-5 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or on May 6, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Church volunteers -- cooks especially -- encourage the community at large to bring hearty appetites to Eight O'' May. They look forward to issuing the invitation year after year.
"I''ve got the boys plugged in; my sons are both excellent cooks. Hopefully, they''ll carry the torch on into the future," said Wolford.
"Many groups in our community have a tradition of being with us on that spring day. All are welcome," Montgomery invited. "We hope everyone will join us by making our tradition your tradition, too."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.