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A Community Table with Community Spirit: the Community Table of Sylva

By Lisa Burgess

What makes it all possible?

Amy Grimes is the director of the Community Table in Sylva, North Carolina. This serve-safe Certified, nonprofit organization provides hot, nutritionally-balanced meals to the community Monday through Friday every week. Amy Grimes and Kevin Hughs, the kitchen coordinator, obtain supplies from various places such as local farmers, local food drives, gifts from businesses including Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, USDA meat, and MANNA Food Bank, and donations from private individuals.

Everyone matters

The Community Table never turns anyone away even when the supply seems low; the troop of community tablekitchen volunteers is always able to pull together and provide enough food to serve each person who comes in for a hot meal. The visitors are warmly welcomed to a family-style meal. The Community Table currently provides take home meals for 175 local children in Jackson County in the Food for Kids Backpack Program.

Who makes it possible?

Although Grimes has been the director for two years, the Community Table has been serving the citizens of Jackson County for ten. The Board of Directors consists of local attorneys, bankers, retirees and administrators. Grimes and Hughs explain that their greatest accomplishment is also their greatest challenge: “keeping up with the need.” However, they manage to provide, on an average, 80 sit-down meals and 120 to-go meals each night. These two remarkable people have a talent for networking with the local radio station, WRGC, clubs like the Girl and Boy Scout Troops, the Service Learning Program at Western Carolina University and Internet sites such as Facebook to ensure the facility is maintained and no one is ever turned away regardless of their situation.

The spirit of the people who eat there

When you walk into the Community Table, you are walking into a house that is being used to provide a vital service to those who could use a hot meal. The simple fact that it's a house and not some huge facility is why the people choose to eat there. The homespun feel of the place makes it very inviting. The volunteers, according to patrons, are warm, wonderful, caring people who always have a smile for everyone. One man said, “It is like visiting family for the holidays or just stopping in for a meal; you feel loved and important.”  I must admit I sat down at one of the tables and immediately struck up a polite comfortable conversation. We laughed, got acquainted and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I know now why people volunteer to help cook and serve there; it is just like going home to be with family and friends.

Who to contact to volunteer

The Community Table is a place to get a hot meal and socialize in a laid-back environment. For more information about the Table, go to www.communitytable.org. To volunteer call Amy Grimes at (828) 586-6782 or send her an email at communitytable@verizon.net.

These profiles were created by the students in Mary Adams's English 303 (spring 2010) class