Soul food fest helps fund Historic New Bethel's year-round ministries

By: 
Feb. 25, 2013

Historic New Bethel A.M.E. Church's 18th-annual Soul Food Festival is the church's biggest fundraiser.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

The smell carried for more than a block in all directions, and only got stronger with each step closer to the church.

Historic New Bethel A.M.E. Church held its 18th-annual Soul Food Festival Saturday, Feb. 23, an event Reverend Reginald Johnson said is the church’s largest fundraiser of the year, supporting a majority of its ministry work.

It was Johnson’s first Soul Food Fest — he says he took over as reverend in September — after Willie Branch held the position for three years. Planning for the event began shortly after he stepped aboard.

The food, which was served in the church's basement and included chicken, greens and ribs, among other items, was cooked in large smokers outside. In the afternoon, it was John Dunbar and Spurgeon White, Jr. tending to the racks of meat.

Sister Francis Davis, the head chef, said she spent a week preparing the food. She and the church also enlisted volunteer labor from the Mainland High School Culinary Academy to help serve guests in the “Soul Food Cafe.”

But it wasn’t just Ormond Beach residents who stopped by the church, Johnson said. There was also a man from North Carolina, who was in the area for the Daytona 500  but had seen information about the Soul Food Festival on the church's website. He made a pit stop at the church before making his way to the racetrack.

Attracting an out-of-state race fan was an example of the Internet's reach, Johnson said, a reach he plans to take advantage of in the future to expand the event.