(Editor’s Note: The following is the first article in a series of articles that will look at where students can and are volunteering their time)
The Community Table is a national organization that helps people who cannot provide for themselves. It prides itself on being a community of volunteers, staff, and guests that share a table, no matter what economic barrier may be present. Locally, the support of Sylva and the surrounding communities has enabled the Community Table to serve thousands of meals to those in need for the past 10 years.
The Community Table currently serves one meal per day to anyone in need of food for any reason. The strength of the organization lies within the support it receives from its volunteers. Each day a group of volunteers sponsors a meal, meaning that they prepare it, serve it, and clean up afterwards.
This coming August, the Community Table will celebrate its 10 year anniversary of serving hot food and hospitality. On average, 45 meals are served at The Community Table each night, which has increased from an average of 25 meals in just the past year. Each week they serve many new guests, a great number of them people that have been affected by the current economic crisis.
“There are days when The Community Table provides me with my first and only meal, and a well-balanced meal, too. The staff and volunteers are always friendly and caring. If The Table wasn’t here I’d be hungry, and lonely, too,” said a guest who is very grateful for the organization.
While The Community Table relies heavily on volunteers, a surprising number of those volunteers are students from Western Carolina University. Many student organizations volunteer part time to cook, clean, and donate or serve meals to the guests.
These organizations include the Service Learning program, the Nutrition and Dietetics program, various athletic programs, many Greek sororities and fraternities, as well as others. Nutrition majors volunteer at the table to fulfill their required hours, and because many enjoy doing it. Their program is known for volunteering at a large number of organizations. Delta Zeta sorority sponsored a food drive for the Community Table as part of their philanthropy project last fall. The athletics department, specifically the football team, has also volunteered their time and sponsored food drives for the table as well.
Over 95% of the support they receive, both financial and volunteer, comes from donations from the community. Whether it’s an extra set of hands or donating food, the Community Table is always in need of help to be used in food preparation and to serve the guests. In addition to the free meals, food boxes are sometimes handed out to low-income families to ensure that they will have food available to them.
The Food for Kids backpack program is a program they sponsor that provides food for children in need. They currently donate food to 83 children to take home on weekends throughout the school year. Food drives are held to supply the food that the children take home.
The Community Table also sponsors the Community Garden, which is an organic garden that is cared for by volunteer gardeners. The garden helps provide The Community Table with fresh food that they use in preparing meals.
Executive Director, Amy Grimes McClure states, “I am very thankful that over the years our community has continued to support our efforts to serve our neighbors in need.”
The Community Table is open Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, with serving hours open from 4:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m. If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Amy Grimes McClure and schedule a date. It is located on 127 Bartlett St. in Sylva, NC.