Organizers say that Gratefull GVL’s inaugural citywide potluck was a success.
The event, organized by Project Host, was free to anyone, and fed more than 3,000 people on a recent Monday afternoon.
“Food is an equalizer. No matter how we look or what we believe, we all deserve a slice of that American dream and a whole helping of healing,” local poet Moody Black noted during the event. “Healing begins when we decide to humbly sit at the table, to really get to know and help feed our neighbors, because we’re all the same: autumn leaves with different colors, floating, finally landing at the same long table.”
For the event the Main Street bridge was closed at 6 a.m. to allow for set-up. Four hundred seats were provided at one table, which stretched across the bridge. Lunch was served at 11:30 a.m. Tobin Simpson, director of culinary operations for Project Host, said “I knew it was a success when I saw people lined up Main Street just before we opened.”
According to Simpson, donated food for the event was dropped off at a staging tent in the Peace Center Plaza, where executive teams from Larkins and Table 301 were present, as well as local representatives from food-distributor Sysco Corp. According to Marrianne Harris, the Hostmobile Chef at Project Host, organizers were prepared to offer 13,000 servings of food.
More than 100 local corporate sponsors donated both food and money, Simpson said. Pepsi donated drinks. Downtown boutique Lulu’s donated scarves for diners who wanted them. Leftovers were given to the local nonprofit food distributor, Loaves & Fishes.
There were also 500 local volunteers, Simpson said, half from the donating sponsors and half who were just friends from the community. Volunteers were responsible for serving food, cleaning the tables and helping guests find their seats.
Mason Baptista, who is in his first season playing for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits professional hockey team, joined his teammates as a volunteer helping wheelchair-bound guests find their seats.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Baptista said. “This is an awesome event, because everybody in the event comes together, and everybody’s helping each other. It’s a feel-good moment.”
The event’s inclusivity impressed many, including Michelle Liggett, a program manager at Project Host.
“We have a vegan and halal and kosher section, and it’s neat to see people from all different parts of our community coming out and celebrating with their traditional food as well.”
“This long table is symbolic of what we care about in our community,” Mayor Knox White, said during the event. “We can say it to the nation, and we can say it to the world: We focus on what brings us together.”
To see more photos of the event, view our gallery here.