HAMPTONVILLE — The Union Grove Amish community is rallying around a mother and her children who lost their husband and father shortly after moving to a new Amish community in Chatham, Virginia. The strength and support of the community will be visible Saturday as they host a benefit fish fry for the family.
Junior and Joanna Brenneman and their four children left the Union Grove community, which Brenneman’s parents, Leroy and Nancy Brenneman, helped found, in 2014 to start a new sister community with seven other families, including Joanna’s parents, Paul and Bertha Peachy, in Chatham. Later the same year, Junior Brenneman lost his life in a tragic accident, leaving Joanna to care for their four children, ages 2 to 8.
“He was on a job site. It was a work project where we as a church build buildings like tool sheds and things, then the proceeds left go to support hospitals and schools and such,” said Marvin Miller, owner of Home Acres Fine Furniture in the Union Grove community.
He explained that the Peachys, who founded the Dutch Kettle in Yadkin County, went with Junior and Joanna and the family to help settle Chatham, but intended on returning to Union Grove. Now the couple will remain in Chatham to help support Joanna.
The fundraiser set for Saturday on the grounds of Home Acres Fine Furniture will help fund the construction of a new home for Joanna and the children in Chatham. It is sponsored by the furniture store and has been organized by Miller and Tom Coletti, retired founder of the Shiloh General Store.
The Amish in Union Grove have become known for their fish fries, held in the past to benefit other causes such as raising money for the Buck Shoals Fire Department. Miller said Alvin and Emma Mae Mast are the cooks behind the community fish fries. “Alvin’s got some kind of breading everyone likes,” Miller said. “People really like the fish, I like them too.”
In addition to the fried flounder, plates will include broccoli salad made by Miller’s wife, Mary, and hushpuppies, as well as ice cream from Wholesome Country Creamery. The cost of food is donations only.
Miller said they plan on making 700 plates, with sales beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing until they are sold out. They will all be served in to-go packaging, but he said there will be a tent and tables set up on the store grounds as well as lawn furniture so those who want to stay and visit can eat and relax.
As much as this is a fundraiser to bring the community together, Miller said, “This is one of those times when we depend on the Lord and each other to help carry a burden. This community hopes you will come enjoy a good meal and if you would like, donate what you can to help us provide for Joanna and her children.”
Home Acres Fine Furniture is located at 6224 Windsor Road, Hamptonville, and the event will be held rain or shine. Those unable to attend but who would like to contribute to the benefit can said donations to Joanna Brenneman, c/o Home Acres Fine Furniture, 6224 Windsor Road, Hamptonville, NC 27020, with checks made payable to Joanna Brenneman. For more information, call 336-468-1744.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.