OCEAN CITY – On Sunday from 1-7 p.m., members of the Atlantic United Methodist Church will gather for the 40th Annual Phillips Crab House Dinner, a favored church fundraiser that provides food and fun.
For 40 years, the Phillips family, members of the Atlantic United Methodist Church, has generously held the annual dinner, donating all proceeds from the event to the church. The event has grown into one of the most popular church fundraisers.
The idea for the annual fundraising dinner began with Ethel Kelley, original owner of the Beach Plaza Hotel and mother of former Mayor Harry Kelley. According to Paul Wall, Vice President of Phillips Seafood Restaurant, Kelley began the annual event as thanks to God for the on-time completion of the Beach Plaza Hotel.
“She was so thankful to God that she got it open on time that she promised to have a dinner at the end of the season to give thanks,” said Wall.
The tradition was carried on when Kelley sold the hotel to the Fleming family and later when the Fleming family sold to Brice and Shirley Phillips. Wall explained that as the dinner grew, the decision was made to move it to Phillips Crab House in order to accommodate the hundreds of people coming out for the event.
The Phillips staff prepares the food, but all of the serving and bussing will be in the hands of nearly 150 church volunteers.
“We encourage the general public to attend,” said Wall, who added Sunday night would also mark the restaurant’s closing night.
Adults and children ages 11 and up will enjoy vegetable crab soup, crab imperial, baked ham, fried chicken, ice cream for dessert, a beverage, and all the trimmings for $18. Children ages four to 10 will enjoy baked ham, fried chicken, rolls and butter, dessert, and a beverage for $6. Take-out is also available.
“Phillips doesn’t touch the money at all, we provide all the food and the cooks in the kitchen and all we ask is that the volunteers do the serving,” Wall said.
Atlantic United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Norman Poultney said the event makes about $20,000 for the church each year and that nearly 900 people were served last year.
“All that aside it’s a blast,” Poultney said, noting how much fun the volunteers and patrons have at the event.
According to Poultney, the event is fun for all ages, with children and adults attending and volunteering.
“We would probably do it even if it wasn’t a fundraiser,” Poultney said. “It’s truly an event, not just a fundraiser.”
Church member and fundraiser volunteer Cathy Soule also looks forward to the fundraiser each year.
“All the dinners that I have worked have been a blast. Everyone willingly pitches in and does whatever it takes to get the meals served and the job done,” Soule said.
According to Soule, the kids enjoy the event as well, pitching in and helping out wherever they can.
“Our youth group and many other children work the event and really do a great job. We joke with them about what their future ‘Phillips server name’ will be,” Soule said.
According to Poultney, the church uses the money in a variety of ways to benefit the community. The funding goes into the church budget and is used for areas such as youth group programs, a variety of mission outreaches, counseling to the homeless in Ocean City and to provide for a first grade teacher that the church supports in Appalachia.
“Our church has worked really hard at making sure that we put [the money raised] to good use and give back to our local community through our ministries and missions,” Soule said.
Pultney added, “It’s really a blessing to the church. It’s something that we look forward to all year.”