Traditional stew sale keeps traditions alive

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2000

Once a year the ladies of the Georgiana Garden Club feed a large number of people across Butler County. Their annual fundraiser, a Brunswick Stew sale, has become a tradition and every year more people are taking some home to feed their families.

The stew is held every year to raise money for various Garden Club activities. This year, the money will help with current renovations of the club's log cabin in downtown Georgiana where the club meets. It will also help with city beautification projects such as tree-planting in the city on Arbor Day and to continue a garden therapy project at the Georgiana Nursing Facility.

Suzy Shepherd, chairman of the project, said the stew sale requires a lot of work and dedication. Preparing the ingredients begins several days before the sale at each of the members' homes.

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"We usually start by cutting our own meat and seasoning it. We try to get as much of the fat off the meat as possible," Shepherd said.

The ladies then get together on Thursday for the annual onion-chopping and potato-slicing day. In all, the ladies cut up 35 pounds of onions and a countless number of potatoes.

Once the cutting has been done, the ladies mix the ingredients of chicken, roast beef, pork, tomatoes, ketchup, corn, butter beans, onions, potatoes and Worcestershire sauce. The stew must cook on a low temperature for several hours.

On both Thursday and Friday, the ladies get together at 8:30 a.m. and work all day in preparing the stew and then in selling it and serving to those who made a purchase.

The Garden Club is not the only group to have used this recipe for fundraisers. It is the recipe of club member, and a stew-project committee member, Syble Parker. It was used for several years at South Butler Academy and at Fort Dale Academy after the two schools merged. The Georgiana Methodist Church has also used the recipe to help raise money.

Last year the fundraiser sold 144 quarts of stew. Shepherd said that with many advanced orders being taken she expects this year they will sell even more.

"We are expecting an increase this year. This has been a very successful fundraiser for us and it seems to get bigger every year. We have already had a lot of orders placed in advance which is a good sign of how well we will do," she said.

There are 13 members of the Georgiana Garden Club and all of them participate in the preparation of the stew that will be cooked in two different batches.

"We prepared some on Thursday and we were able to go ahead and deliver it to some of those who had placed an order. On Friday, we began selling plates and pick-up orders at 11:00 (a.m.)," she said.

Over the years, the Brunswick Stew sale has grown into a community affair.

"We have people who are not members of our club come in and help us prepare for the sale. The community has been very supportive of this and we could not do it without them, whether they are buying the stew or helping us prepare it," Shepherd said.

Along with Shepherd and Parker, the other chairperson for the stew sale is Frances Lowery.

The members of the Garden Club are always looking for things they can do to help improve their community. From planting trees to encouraging education in youth, the members have helped make Butler County a better place and the stew will help them continue that work.

"We will use some of the money to help us with our current renovations of the log cabin. But, we also will use it for civic beautification projects like planting trees within the city or helping us continue our garden therapy project at the nursing home. We also sponsor several educational contests at local schools and some of the money will be used to purchase prizes," Shepherd said.

Despite all the hard work, Shepherd said that the camaraderie and community spirit makes everything worthwhile.

"It is a lot of work. But, it also is a lot of fun working together and I think that other people enjoy it as well. We have a lot of people who really enjoy the stew and purchase some each year. That makes us very proud," she said.