Monthly Siler City Community Meal provides more than food

BY KIM HAWKS, News + Record Staff
Posted 12/6/19

Editor’s Note: Kim Hawks, who works as a photographer for the News + Record, attended a recent Siler City Community Meal and wrote this first-person account of her time there.

SILER CITY — In …

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Monthly Siler City Community Meal provides more than food

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Posted

Editor’s Note: Kim Hawks, who works as a photographer for the News + Record, attended a recent Siler City Community Meal and wrote this first-person account of her time there.

SILER CITY — In March 2017, Wilma Schroeder and Gwen Overturf created the Siler City Community Meal. On the fourth Friday of each month, this event is hosted by the Peppercorn Coffee Shop at 138 N. Chatham Ave. in Siler City. Everyone is welcomed.

The first volunteers arrive around 4 p.m. to prepare for the shared dinner provided primarily by residents of Siler City and a few other towns in Chatham County. Tables and chairs are rearranged and serving stations are set up for meat, vegetables and desserts. The dinner is determined by a monthly sign-up sheet where volunteers commit to a specific main dish/meat, side dish, salad, dessert or bread. Magically, around 5:30 p.m., volunteer chefs walk in with their food offerings cooked, warm, covered and ready to feed at least 20-30 out of the 100-130 normal attendees. Huge pans of dressing, turkey, poppy seed chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pans of cornbread, pumpkin, apple crumb and pecan pies were part of last Friday’s dinner menu. It was an early, over-the-top Thanksgiving meal, with “community family.”

Among the regular volunteers is Selina Lopez, who is in charge of the Youth Leadership Program at the Hispanic Liaison/El Vinculo Hispano in Siler City. Selina arrives with 10 students who help set up tables and serve food buffet-style for community service hours. Selina is a first generation graduate from UNC who majored in Psychology and Hispanic Literature. She offers career readiness counseling to guide and help Latino students become aware of many diverse career choices to consider. They meet weekly after school from 4-7 p.m. Selina provides transportation when needed.

By 6 p.m., approximately 60 people are milling about, visiting and catching up with friends. It’s a fun gathering, sharing a meal on a monthly basis. The community meal officially begins with Overturf welcoming everyone to the gathering. She mentions there’s a special treat this evening. Heather McIver of Silk Hope sponsored live music provided by Chatham Rabbits, a local duo made up of Chatham residents Sarah and Austin McCombie. A line is formed, plates are heaped with delicious food and everyone shares a special community meal together. After a wonderful meal, the Chatham Rabbits perform, most of them originals. It’s a time of magical community.

This is a lovely model to offer support to people who can’t afford three meals a day, a common definition of food insecurity. And it is about more than just sharing food — it’s also about building community and support via regular monthly gatherings. To me, it’s powerful and beautiful.

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