This year marks 59 years that the First Christian Church of Meridian has been frying ham and serving piping hot cookies at its annual Kentucky Ham Meal.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meal was canceled last year for the first time since its inception in 1963.
Church member Mary Gilmore said the goal this year was to serve more than 2,500 people.
Gilmore says supporting the event is important because all proceeds go back to the community. Plus, it serves as a homecoming for those who have attended for many years, some since the beginning, she said.
“When you come to eat in the dining room, you can gather around and see the ones you haven’t seen in a while, and new people enjoy it as well,” Gilmore said. “It’s also a great experience for those of us who work here.”
Gilmore said she has been helping with meals for 40 years and now her children and grandchildren are getting involved.
“We’ve had five generations of Gilmores working on the project,” Gilmore said. “I think different ages working side by side is so satisfying. We all have the same goal of helping our community and carrying on the tradition.
Even more impressive than the amount of ham that is fried and the meals that are served is the number of organizations and causes that benefit from the proceeds from the annual event. In addition to the entire Disciple Mission Fund, fundraising proceeds benefit the following organizations and causes: The Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi, Care Lodge, East Mississippi State Hospital Child Activity Programs, Laurie Autry Fund, LOVE’s Kitchen, Multi-County Community Agency, American Red Cross-Key Chapter, Scholarship for Hope Village (in memory of Annie Kate Ward), Jeff Anderson Regional Cancer Center Benevolence Fund, Jeff Anderson Regional Cancer Center Discretionary Fund, Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital and the First Christian Church Male Program.
If you are going to:
• The meal will be held at the 23rd Avenue Church at 13th Street from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday and from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
• Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door the day of the event or in advance by calling the church office at 601-693-1425. The menu includes ham, red-eye sauce, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, homemade cookies, homemade jams, and coffee or juice.
• Take-out meals are also available. A drive-thru is planned on 13th Street – between the church and the Merritt House, which housed the church offices. Large orders (5 or more) can be called before pickup.
Figures from previous years:
• 1,000 pounds of Kentucky ham.
• 500 pounds of flour.
• 300 Crisco shortening sticks.
• 40 gallons of buttermilk (because 12,000 to 14,000 cookies were made in the busiest years).
• 6,000 singles of butter.
• 200 pounds of grain.
• 728 dozen eggs.
• 4,000 sachets of jelly; as well as many pints of homemade jelly and preserves.
The tradition of the meal began in 1963 as a call for help. An appeal has been made to Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) to help modernize Jackman Memorial Hospital in Bilaspur, India.
Wanting to meet this need, the FCC of Meridian’s Christian Women’s Fellowship decided to sponsor a fundraiser. At the suggestion of Dr. and Mrs. Apperson, who had come to Meridian Church the previous year, the first Kentucky Ham Breakfast was held.
The Appersons traveled to Kentucky and bought 60 pounds of Kentucky cured hams and brought them back in the trunk of their car for the first breakfast. Nearly $600 was raised for an offering sent to Jackman Hospital that year.
Fifty-nine years later, the amount of ham purchased has grown to over 800 pounds. Nearly 3,000 supporters are now served and the serving time has increased to two days, and it is now called the Kentucky Ham Meal. Men and youth as well as friends outside of FCC also lent a hand in what has become a community event.