“ Everything was good, food was good – everything was good,” said Dianne Wilson. “Getting to meet a bunch of people.”
United Way of Iredell County, along with lead sponsor Cheney Brothers Inc., was behind the Longest Table, a chance for folks to share a free meal and to meet people from all walks of life.
This year’s event took place outside of the Signal Hill Mall with dinner being served at 6:30 p.m.; previously the event took place at Statesville High but was moved this year due to ongoing construction.
The event provided the community with a free meal to enjoy with their neighbors of all income levels, ethnicities, sexual orientation and beliefs to share a table and potentially build friendships.
Following up on the theme of “One Good Thing”, each of those at the approximately 108 tables were encouraged to share something positive that has happened to them in the last several days.
The “One Good Thing” could be shared by writing it down on a big piece of paper, there is then an opportunity to get your photo taken with your “One Good Thing” to be shared on Facebook.
The event included an estimate of 900 community participants, host and volunteers to keep the event moving smoothly.
Each table has a host which encouraged organic conversation between strangers but before diving into deep conversations and a meal, there were a few speakers who all talked of how important it is to have an event like this.
President of Cheney Brothers Inc. in Statesville, Rick Stapleton, expressed how happy the company is to be a part of something like this, “[It is great to] come together to have a meal with your neighbors… no matter your economic situation, religion, sexual orientation… we can change our community.”
The theme of everyone being welcomed spilled over from the speeches to the prayers as there were three prayers given by Rev. Reginald Keitt, Rev. Nelson Granade and Caity Gordon each representing different denominations.
With prayers completed, volunteers made their way to each table with endless mounds of chicken, coleslaw, baked beans and greens.
In the middle of the meal everyone quieted down as many start to sing “Happy Birthday” to Victor Crosby of Statesville who turned 100-years-old on the day of the event.
“ First of all, I think this is a fantastic event, to be with your neighbors, I like the community aspect of it – it’s a peaceful and cohesive event, which we all need as much as we can get,” Brewer said.
Many at table eight talked about how thankful they were to see another day but mostly how much they appreciated this experience.
“ Thank you for everything, really appreciate it,” Amanda Black said.
Volunteers also got to enjoy being a part of the community in a special way.
“ This has been very cool because it has been what I want… it is only one race, the human race,” Hall said about everyone coming together.
Other participants like Anthony Reed enjoyed the learning of other people’s lives and the warm hugs he was given after a good conversation.
“ It’s a wonderful event that bridges gaps in our community. I wish we had more events like this here in Statesville,” Michele Cooke said.
“ The last thing we would like to say would be a giant thank you to the community and volunteers that made this day possible! With over 250 volunteers helping the day of and a very committed planning committee this event became one very big showcase of “One Good Things” throughout the community,” Sara Lewis, the Director of Community Engagement and Foundation Relations of United Way of Iredell County said.
The event was made possible with the help of sponsors and partners which included Cheney Brothers Inc., Mitchell Community College, Iredell Statesville Schools, BB&T, Iredell County Parks and Recreation Department, City of Statesville, Piedmont HealthCare, River Oaks, G4G Ministries, Wells Fargo and United Way of Iredell County.
To find any of the pictures that were taken during the event to tell the story of “One Good Thing” go to the United Way of Iredell County’s Facebook page or #ICLongestTable.
By Brittney Melton [email protected], Updated
For more information about the United Way of Iredell County visit, https://uwiredell.org/