Soul Shakedown by the River returns

GRADUATION DAY: In 2016, Green Opportunities had 53 trainees graduate. Green Opportunities executive director  J Hackett, center, is pictured with graduates Stephen Hammond, left, and Jevia Nebitt. The Soul Shakedown fundraiser supports the GO Kitchen Ready culinary training program.
GRADUATION DAY: In 2016, Green Opportunities had 53 trainees graduate. Green Opportunities executive director J Hackett, center, is pictured with graduates Stephen Hammond, left, and Jevia Nebitt. The Soul Shakedown fundraiser supports the GO Kitchen Ready culinary training program. Photo courtesy of Green Opportunities

For the last three years, chef Joe Scully, owner of Chestnut and the Corner Kitchen, has volunteered as an instructor with Green Opportunities’ Kitchen Ready culinary program. Kitchen Ready is one of several job-training programs that the nonprofit offers to youth and adults from low-wealth neighborhoods, with additional classes in carpentry, construction, building trades and facilities maintenance.

“[Kitchen Ready] is set up to give people an opportunity to refocus and possibly take on a trade in the food-service industry,” says Scully. “A lot of the individuals that go to the culinary program are people that have come out of hard times or have had other challenges.”

On Saturday, May 6, Scully, along with members of Green Opportunities’ Southside Kitchen, will prepare the meal for the organization’s second Soul Shakedown by the River (the first was held in 2015). Menu highlights include jerk chicken wings, pork sliders with mango chutney and Caribbean banana fritters. Along with the food, the event will feature beer and wine, a musical performance by Natural Born Leaders, a raffle and silent auction.

Soul Shakedown functions as Green Opportunities’ primary fundraiser. Executive director J Hackett estimates that the individual donations and business sponsorships account for 10 percent of the organization’s total budget. “While this amount may seem small, these funds are incredibly important,” he says. “They fill the gaps that our grants don’t always cover.”

Emergency support services for students, notes Hackett, are one way these contributions play into the nonprofit’s day-to-day operations. “Rent support, emergency utility support, child care and transportation services … typically are not covered by grants,” he says. “But [they] are necessary to helping support [students] as they train.”

And the training pays off. In 2016, 59 members of Green Opportunities were awarded certifications (44 ServSafe Food Handler certificates and 15 OSHA Construction Safety certificates), while 48 members were placed in jobs or apprenticeships. Last year, the organization also hosted two job fairs, launched a partnership with the YMCA of Western North Carolina (which brought the Healthy Living Mobile Market to the Edington Center once a month, as well as free fruits and vegetables to Green Opportunities students and Southside residents), and catered over 100 local events.

Just as Green Opportunities gives back to the community, the community is giving back to Green Opportunities at this year’s Soul Shakedown. “Our silent auction and raffle are going to be pretty cool,” says Gwen Hill, the organization’s communication’s manager. “We have a lot of local businesses donating a lot of great items.”

Buxton Hall, 12 Bones, White Duck Taco, Chai Pani, Asheville Pizza & Brewing, The Hop, French Broad Chocolates, Geraldine’s Bakery and Kilwins have all provided gift cards as part of this year’s raffle. Other donated items include tickets to Asheville Community Theatre’s performance of The Producers, a free bike tuneup from MustAsheville Bikes, private yoga classes and more.

“Soul Shakedown is about celebrating what our community does together,” says Hackett. “It’s the time we come together and recognize that we are connected — not because we are here, but because we care.”

WHAT: Soul Shakedown by the River

WHERE: Boathouse Pavilion, 318 Riverside Drive avl.mx/3oi

WHEN: Saturday, May 6, from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. avl.mx/3oj

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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