Inside the Clinton Truck & Tractor facility, a packed room of community members stood around tables and cracked open oyster shells.
For the Clinton Rotary Club, its oyster roast is the largest fundraiser of the year. Among the loud chatter, President Kent Daughtry, reflected on the success.
“It’s a great social event as well as a wonderful time to eat,” Daughtry said.
Although it’s an annual tradition for the club, Thursday night was a little more special. For the first time, it was named in honor of Rogers Clark, a dedicated Rotary member who passed away last year. Daughtry recalled a time when only a small group of people would attend.
“He was one of the founders of the oyster roast and it’s become our largest fundraiser each year,” Daughtry said.
Widow Kathy Clark said it is something he looked forward to every year and worked hard to make it thrive. Rogers was known for outselling everyone when it came to ticket sales.
“It was always a fun event for him,” she said.
She feels very honored by Rotary naming the event after her late husband, who was described as having a warm and friendly personality.
“He never met a stranger and had a good sense of humor,” Kathy said with a smile.
Kathy added that he was a workaholic, a great father and grandfather, who will forever be missed. His son, John Clark, said the siblings are grateful for the recognition too.
“It meant a lot to him because it meant a lot to the community and the Rotary,” John said about the event and the organization. “As a father, as a businessman, as a friend, he was the most charitable giving person you’ll ever know.”
Originally from Elizabethtown, the businessman dedicated more than 50 years to Sampson-Bladen Oil Company and the Waccamaw Transport Company, where he served as president and CEO for both. Among many accomplishments, he enjoyed being involved in the community and his church. He was a Sunday School teacher and served as chairman of the Board of Deacons for First Baptist Church in Clinton.
Rogers served as past president of the Clinton Rotary Club and made many contributions. Without the work of Rogers and Ronnie Jackson, the event would not be possible. Jackson’s tractor facility on Northeast Boulevard hosts the event and about 500 tickets are sold each year.
“Every dime we make will be given away,” Jackson said while large bushels of oysters roasted outside, with the assistance of local Boy Scouts.
For members such as Jackson, the annual oyster roast tradition begins at the beginning of the year.
“The way the schedule reads, it’s the third Thursday night in January … unless North Carolina State has a basketball game,” Jackson said with a chuckle.
For Vic Powley, of the Raleigh area, the feast is a annual tradition for him too. This year marks his third trip to Sampson County. He was sold during his first visit.
“It’s great, super and well worth the trip,” Powley said about his drive, which is about an hour long.
In addition to enjoying the oysters, Powley enjoyed knowing that his financial contribution was helping many community-based organizations.
“It’s a great cause and I’ve always tried to support the Rotary,” Powley said.
Each year, the organization provides scholarships at Sampson Community College and supports a business program for local high school students, which gives them the opportunity to learn about networking. Contributions were also made to United Way of Sampson County for hurricane relief.
Another major push from Rotary is supporting a polio-free world.
“It’s almost eradicated,” Daughtry said about the crippling and deadly infectious disease. “We’re still working hard to get that eliminated, so polio can be a thing of the past.”
Since 2008, Rotary has helped local organizations such as the Sampson Arts Council, Sampson Crisis Center, Sampson County Parks & Recreation and U-Care. While reflecting on the memory of his father, John also commended the work of the Rotary Club throughout the year.
“Rotary is an international organization that does good things for children all over the world,” he said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.