Every Wednesday and Sunday, hundreds of Ashevillians from all walks of life gather at Haywood Street Congregation to share a free meal and fellowship at Downtown Welcome Table.
However, an unexpected plumbing incident has sent church administrators and volunteers on a mission to sustain this years-long tradition as repairs take place over the next couple of weeks.
“It really caught us by surprise,” said Haywood Street Congregation Communications Director Brook van der Linde. “The entire kitchen needs a lot of work, but that’s not going to stop us from feeding the community.”
Since 2009, Downtown Welcome Table has served more than 100,000 free meals to Ashevillians of all backgrounds. The event typically draws crowds of over 400 for lunch served on Wednesday and 300 for dinner on Sunday. In 2012, local restaurants started pitching in to cook and serve meals when Elizabeth Button of Heirloom Hospitality started recruiting friends in the industry to participate.
Several times a year, one of over twenty partner restaurants from Asheville’s world-famous culinary scene does a guest appearance and cooks a restaurant quality meal on site. With the current state of the Haywood Street Kitchen, church staff and local restaurateurs are stepping up to provide boxed meals.
Joe Scully, owner of Corner Kitchen, Chestnut, and Corner Kitchen Catering is providing boxed lunches this Wednesday. “When the Haywood Street Congregation called the only thing we had to do was make sure we were free to help. It’s an easy ‘yes’ when the cause is one we love so much,” said Scully.
Brook van der Linde says that part of the purpose of Downtown Welcome Table is to bring people from all walks of life together.
“At the same table you can find an unhoused person, a surgeon, and a single mother. In many cases, and in some miraculous way, you cannot tell the difference between them. The lines get fantastically blurred around here,” says van der Linde.
“What feels like a radical approach to sharing love and building community, is actually simple and ancient – sit down, break bread, pass the dressing and get down to the business of being family.”
If you are interested in volunteering or donating Haywood Street Congregation and Downtown Welcome Table, you can contact Emily Bentley – [email protected]