LIMA — Ottawa River supporters and fish fry connoisseurs converged Friday at the fairgrounds for the 20th annual Good Friday Fish Fry to raise money and have a good time.
It was the first time that Ottawa River Coalition supporters were able to break bread together to support the preservation and protection efforts of the river since 2019. ORC Executive Director Haley Belisle was glad to see people enjoying each other’s company in-person again during a steady day of business.
“This is a great way to safely and conveniently enjoy Good Friday with a tasty meal while also supporting our local watershed. The proceeds help support our river education efforts as well as some water quality improvement projects.”
The fish fry was completely canceled in 2020 and returned for drive-thru pickups only in 2021. While organizers are grateful for any opportunity to raise funds, the drive-thru wasn’t ideal, especially after losing out on the organization’s biggest fundraiser the year before. Without being able to gather, the ORC was unable to hold its traditional silent auction, which raises quite a bit of money alongside dinner sales. Every dollar lost means the river loses a layer of protection.
“We use these bonds to help educate the general public on the water quality of the watershed in the area,” Gearing said. “Obviously, at four or five o’clock is when you get your pick up on business, but overall a good, good turnout,” ORC vice chairman Joe Gearing said.
Perry Township trustee Kevin Cox remarked that after not having a fish fry in 2019 last year’s drive-thru was helpful, but it was imperative the traditional event took place in 2022. While the river needs as much funding as it can get, people need this human contact even more and he was thrilled to be making people smile.
“This is so much more sociable. It’s nice. This is what people want and need, you know. I could come in here and talk to people all day long and you’re just tickled to death because I think that’s what people want to see. They enjoy it. People enjoy being around people and it’s great to see the fellowship. I know what Jesus would be doing if he were here — he would be encouraging fellowship — he’d be talking to everyone,” Cox quipped.
Lock 16 catered the dinners for the ORC and included whitefish strips, seasoned fries and coleslaw. Meals were available for dine-in and carryout for $15 with all proceeds going towards watershed educational programs.
“It goes to support our programs, a lot of which are education programs,” Belisle said. “We love going out to the local schools and teaching students about the ecology of their local river and history behind it. We love getting the kids into the river and having them put their feet in the river. Getting your hands into the lesson we are teaching helps them make the connection.”
The ORC was formed in 1993 to preserve and protect the river. Today, dozens of businesses, organizations and individuals work together toward that common goal. The Ottawa River is the healthiest it has been for decades thanks to the positive impacts people are making to restore water quality for a healthier community.
ORC membership is open to anyone interested in promoting the wise management of the river, however, being a voting member of the coalition requires paying annual dues in the amount of $100.
Those interested in voting and non-voting memberships can obtain more information by contacting Haley Belisle at 419-222-0846, ext. 1000 or emailing [email protected] Applications can also be picked up or dropped off at 1870 Slabtown Rd., Lima, 45801.
Reach Joe Gilroy at 567-242-0398 or on Twitter @TLNJoeGilroy