For the past 25 years The Community Table has provided meals to people in need, adding doses of socialization and conversation to the the organization’s main dish: nutritious food that sustains people who are struggling.
On Thursday hundreds of people, many of them donors to and volunteers at The Community Table, visited an open house at the organization’s location, 320 Putnam St., intended to celebrate its quarter-century of service.
Visitors sampled fare from food trucks, pastries, beer and wine. Some of them gathered for a large group photo. Children took part in various activities. Mostly people talked, many about the role The Community Table has played in improving people’s lives.
“That’s really what’s heartening, to hear some of the stories of the positive difference this place makes for people who need that help,” the organization’s executive director, Michelle Koehn, said.
Those stories were in plentiful supply at the open house. Many attendees discussed the importance of The Community Table, saying it plays a consequential role for many in need of meals.
“This place is really important to a lot of folks,” said Traci Olson, who said she ate meals there for a time some years ago when she experienced financial difficulty. “When people are down on their luck, this is somewhere they can turn.”
Larry Schmidt agreed. The Eau Claire resident said he knows a growing number of people facing financial challenges and resources like The Community Table are needed in the city.
“We need to get poor people all the help they can get,” he said.
All participating food and beverage vendors at the open house donated a percentage of their proceeds to The Community Table. Those donations will help pay for youth meal programs.
Koehn has worked as executive director for the past year, having replaced Lynn Standorf. She has worked hard to garner more resources for The Community Table to help meet the need.
Despite her relatively short tenure, Koehn said she feels a bond with The Community Table backers.
“Look around and you see all of the support we have from this community,” she said in between hugs from well-wishers attending the open house. “I absolutely love that feeling here.”
Koehn was a whirlwind of activity Thursday, walking, and sometimes jogging between groups of people, greeting and thanking them and discussing the organization’s mission. She posed for photos, then walked hurriedly toward another group, smiling broadly.
“It’s hard not to be happy when you have an event like this,” she said.