LINWOOD — The aroma floating in the air Saturday afternoon at the Central United Methodist Church could have rivaled any fine eatery.

Adams Hall inside the church was transformed into an upscale restaurant with each table for four draped in white linens, with china, fresh flowers and napkins folded into a rose. Head chef and organizer of the event, Jim Murphy brought years of preparing lavish meals to the 15th Central United Methodist Church Mission Gourmet Dinner.

Murphy and the chefs and volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to plan and create the seven-course gourmet dinner did so because, he said, they all love giving back to charity and making delicious food for people is a wonderful way to be able to help others.

“There is no greater gift of love than to serve others and to raise money for people in our community,” Murphy said. “This is not your standard spaghetti dinner fundraiser; this is an outside-the-box fundraiser for a church. We have raised over $40,000 for charity and will be close to $50,000 after this dinner.”

The eclectic, creative menu entices diners. This Mission Gourmet Dinner was a sellout as have been so many preceding it. The dinner began with thinly sliced London broil with chimichurri sauce and was followed by the appetizer of homemade flatbread topped with sliced pears, fig jam, gorgonzola cheese, chopped walnuts, Italian parsley and a balsamic glaze. The soup that followed: oven-roasted carrot and ginger soup with candied ginger and carrot cake croutons. A beautiful salad followed and then what Murphy said was a delicious creation, an intermezzo of root beer caviar. The entrees included a beef short rib with an amaretto demi glaze, a sesame lemon glazed cod and veal piccata with lemon, capers and white wine served with risotto. Dessert was a twist on an old favorite — s’mores made with graham cracker pound cake topped with dark chocolate fudge and homemade toasted marshmallows.

While there were many cooks in the kitchen, there were also a great number of hands serving as well. Many from the church youth group donned their aprons to serve the patrons, bus tables and serve as runners in and out of the kitchen.

Murphy said the dinner raised $6,300 that will be divided among the three chosen charities for this event: a local widowed mother who is battling cancer, the scholarship program for teens heading to college and the church general fund.

Asked why they were chosen, Murphy said, “It is just what tugs at our heart. We all believe strongly that it is important to invest in our youth because they are so important to our future and also to teach them by example about serving others. We have donated our proceeds mostly to the mission work of the church — we want to give back to our church.”

Some of the past beneficiaries include The Hero Campaign, Sister Jean’s Kitchen, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, Red Bird Mission, Soccer Balls for Haiti, medical assistance for paralyzed patients, a local family who lost everything in a house fire, bullet-proof vests for police officers and the Reilly Hospital for Pediatrics.

But Murphy was quick to say that all of the money raised would not be possible without the 30 benefactors, sponsors, restaurants and establishments in the community and region who donated more than 90 percent of the supplies used in the dinner. “We could never reach this goal without their heart of generosity,” said Murphy.

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