Gratefull: Still one table, just a little more full
Ann Swanson wedges herself between a sculpture on the front lawn of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the "Gratefull Chattanooga" Turkey lunch on November 19, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).
By Hannah Waggoner, Staff Writer—
Imagine a long one table where everyone in the city can come together and enjoy a Thanksgiving potluck; this is a real event, and it is called Gratefull.
Gratefull took place on Monday, Nov. 19 at on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Gratefull (formerly known as One Table) started in 2014, when the staff at Causeway, a local nonprofit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, noticed that there was an invisible wall that stood on Martin Luther King Boulevard. One side was full of Chattanooga’s up-and-coming startup culture, and on the other side were many homeless and disadvantaged people.
The Causeway team asked, “How can we make Chattanooga a more connected city?” They decided to invite both sides of the invisible wall, to share a meal together at one long table. It was time to separate that dividing line, and bring people closer together.
There is no fee, no expectations and no agenda—just an open invitation for everyone to come and share a meal together.
During Gratefull’s first year, over 700 people attended, and little did they know that it would soon become a Thanksgiving tradition for the Chattanooga community.
Chelsea Conrad, the Creative Director of Causeway, loves the Gratefull event. She has been with Causeway since the beginning, and has seen much growth happen. Conrad said, “I always tell people to just come, bring friends and make sure you bring food to share.”
Last year, over 1,500 people attended Gratefull. Conrad said they started out the event with a mixer so people who wouldn’t normally interact could meet each other.
“It was amazing getting to see people connect and meet each other,” Conrad said. “People come as strangers, and they leave as friends. It is a beautiful thing to see.”
This year, Gratefull is presented by The Feed Co. Other sponsors include Dish T’Pass, Unum, Synovus, Niedlov’s, Bitter Alibi, Main Street Meats, Plus Coffee, and more.
“Our sponsors are incredible, and we are so thankful for them,” Conrad said. “They are the ones that make this all possible.”
Bonita Bishop, who lives a few blocks away in low-income housing, says she loves coming to the Gratefull event.
“I love that everyone brings their own dishes, their friends and their families” Bishop said. “There are no rich people nor poor people when we are all sitting down at the one table. We are all the same.”