By Jenelle Pierce, Staff Writer–
Six years ago, Abby Garrison and her colleagues from Causeway, where she is Executive Director, were eating lunch in Miller Plaza and noting the disparity between the people in Miller Plaza and those in Miller Park. This was, of course, before the revamping of Miller Park, when it was known as a gathering place for many of the homeless people in Chattanooga.
On this day, they began to think – ‘What if there was a way we could have everyone in Miller Plaza sit down for a meal with everyone in Miller Park?’
While they may not have been the first to ever have this thought, this group was different. They work for Causeway.
Causeway is a nonprofit focused on social innovation. They provide $2,500 grants to people who have an idea to solve a problem or help a cause within their community. In this case, Garrison and her colleagues decided to give themselves one of these $2,500 grants in hopes to create a community Thanksgiving – one where corporate executive could sit across the table with someone who was down on their luck. They initially called it One Table, but later changed it to Gratefull.
“We spell it Gratefull with two L’s,” Garrison said, “as in full belly and full heart.”
Garrison also added that almost everything provided for the event is crowd sourced, from the table, to the flowers, and even a piano. The event is free for everyone, and they cater the turkey and dressing through Dish t’Pass, but ask that all who can bring a dish for the potluck. This helps Causeway keep the event free and inclusive to all people.
The team at Causeway wasn’t sure what to expect from the event the first year, nor had they even really thought about doing it again, but around 700 people showed up that day and many of them immediately adopted it as Chattanooga’s new Thanksgiving tradition.
Now, each year, part of MLK Boulevard gets blocked off on the Monday before Thanksgiving for the event, and many people drive in from surrounding areas to attend..
When asked about how the diversity has held up at the event, Garrison said “It’s really kind of incredible how the different walks of life have maintained over the years. I’d say about 1/3 of people who are working professionals, 1/3 drive in from Hixson or Red Bank, 1/3 are people who live downtown or are kind of down on their luck.”
This year, Gratefull will take place on November 25, 2019 from 11:30am-1pm. For more information or to volunteer for Gratefull, go to causeway.org/gratefull.