On the evening of Nov. 22, local nonprofit organization Green Opportunities hosted its third annual Southside Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center on Livingston Street in Asheville. The annual event represents just a small portion of Green Opportunities’ work.
The organization’s mission is “to connect youth and adults from low-wealth neighborhoods to sustained employment opportunities that support families and improve community and environmental health.” With this vision, Green Opportunities works to cultivate cross-sector partnerships with a wide variety of groups and businesses to offer resources and support to the community. Its programs include its flagship project, GO Kitchen Ready, a culinary job training and placement service.
For the Southside Community Thanksgiving Dinner, GO partnered with the Asheville Housing Authority, Upfront Management Sports Agency, the Residents Council of the Asheville Housing Authority and Southside community partners to offer a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner spread. This year’s meal fed over 700 people and featured turkey, ham, collard greens, roasted mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, a variety of desserts, drinks and more. The meal was served by community volunteers, including Asheville Fire and Police departments and civic leaders Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, District Attorney Todd Williams and Terry Bellamy, director of communications for the Asheville Housing Authority.
The annual event has been a hit with local residents and has grown each year in the number of meals provided as well as the number of partnerships the organization has made with area businesses, government agencies and other nonprofits. For example, this was the second year GO has teamed up with the Asheville Housing Authority to deliver meals to low-income and disabled residents of Asheville’s public housing developments.
Event coordinator and Green Opportunities Chef Director Liam Luttrell-Rowland told Mountain Xpress that he views himself as a “community chef,” which, he explains, “means that I’m working not solely for the purpose of having my food go out exactly how I want it, but actually involving the community in the entire feeding process.”
Green Opportunities volunteers and staff grew, prepared, cooked and served the food for the meal, which offered an opportunity for all members of the community to to break bread with neighbors. Between the current polarizing political climate and wildfires ravaging the Blue Ridge area the past few weeks, the gym the dinner was held in had a feeling of much-needed togetherness. Everyone was all smiles at the event, dancing, talking, laughing and sharing the holiday meal with new and old friends. This is still just the beginning, says Luttrell-Rowland, for what he and GO are working toward accomplishing in the future, and they are excited to grow with the community.
Luttrell-Rowland says the Edington Center and its surrounding neighborhood are extremely special to him. “This is a very proud neighborhood,” Rowland says. “There’s amazing stuff happening. We’re trying our best to do some outstanding work. We want people to come see us. Come see the Southside Kitchen, come see Green Opportunities, come see the gym at the Edington Center and just enjoy community through this building, because this is where it’s at.”