Founded in 1999, The Community Table works to solve immediate hunger needs in Jackson County. They serve hot meals four days a week, offer a free table with excess bread and produce and stock a food pantry where clients can get a supplemental box of groceries twice a month.
Executive Director Paige Christie notes that the program started out serving about six meals per night, and now they average about 135 meals per night. The Community Table is true to its name, offering a sense of community that fosters conversation and relationships. “We aren’t a traditional soup kitchen,” says Christie. “There are no lines or trays. Rather, our staff and volunteers serve guests at tables, bringing them drinks and taking orders for what they want from our menu.” This environment serves the community well, especially the many senior clients who take advantage of the socialization the meal provides.
Of course, during COVID-19, the organization has had to pivot from this model and now offers pre-packaged meals served to-go under tents outdoors to drive-up or walk-up clients in a COVID-19-safe way.
The Community Table first partnered with Dogwood through an Immediate Needs and Opportunities (ION) Grant that enabled them to install natural gas lines and a gas-powered Generac system. “This type of grant is quite rare in the philanthropy world,” says Christie. “Most funding is very restricted and can only be used for certain things. Dogwood was willing to listen to what we needed and pay attention to our specific request even though it was not an ordinary one.”
The gas line and generator were installed in late June of 2020, and about 10 days after installation, the power went out across Sylva. This could have spelled disaster before the generator’s installation due to tens of thousands of dollars in lost USDA food, which the organization would have had to repay. But the generator was “purring like a kitten” according to Christie.
“Within just 10 days of installation, the generator more than paid for itself,” Christie says. “That generator most likely saved our organization and kept our clients from going hungry, maybe even saving a life.” The gas line has also helped lower the organization’s operating costs because they were able to install gas ovens through a grant from another funding agency.
The Community Table has also partnered with Dogwood and the Foundation for a Healthy Carolina in a grant to reinforce the floors of their building so that they can install walk-in freezers, which will both increase food storage capacity and further reduce their electric bill.
“Within just 10 days of installation, the generator more than paid for itself and most likely saved our organization.”
Area Served: Jackson County
Dogwood Partner in: Health & Wellness
Grant Funding: $58,925