One year old, Open Table beckons all

Paul Clark

For a year now, Black Mountain’s residents and homeless have been breaking bread at the Open Table at Black Mountain United Methodist Church.

“It’s been remarkably successful,” said John Brown, chairman of the Open Table’s steering committee. It celebrates its first year anniversary on Wednesday, March 16 during a lunch provided by Givens Highland Farms retirement community.

Since March 2015, the Open Table has served 3,881 people, many of them regulars who show up every week, said volunteer Joan Brown (no relation to John Brown). “That’s phenomenal,” she said. In January of this year, it served 325 diners.

Open Table was created through funding by Givens Estates’s LifeMinistries, its community outreach program that also runs a hospital supplies ministry in Candler and clothes closets elsewhere, said John Brown, a retired clergy member who lives in the retirement community.

Each week a core of volunteers shows up at about 7:30 a.m. to help prepare the room for the meal that chef Paul Drummond prepares. Volunteers buys the food from MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, augmenting it from local stores when needed. The money for the food comes from donations from diners, as well as from the United Methodist Church, the Highland Farms residents board and LifeMinistries.

“It’s been a community-wide effort to make sure we’re successful,” John Brown said.

The effort feeds between 90-120 people each week during summer and between 70-85 other months, he said. Diners represent “a cross-section of the community,” he said. Some are homeless people referred to the meal by Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. Others are residents who come for the company they find there.

“It’s not just food but a kind of sustenance that makes life more comfortable,” Brown said of the lunchtime experience. “If you’re lonesome and need to experience some community, we have it here.”

Open Table serves on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.