Everyone knows that IHNA has a vitally important mission and provides life saving services for families in extreme crisis in the Athens community. Have you ever wondered, however, what makes us different from other community agencies working with people facing extreme poverty and homelessness?
A very good way to learn more about IHNA’s unique role and amazing success is to attend La Table on February 28, 2017, at the Athens Country Club. La Table is our annual signature fundraiser and luncheon gala and it is truly a sight to see! On La Table day in February, the grand ball room of the country club becomes a rather magical place filled with 32 gloriously decorated tables, each one being the masterpiece of a very talented and creative host or hostess. It is such fun to browse through this beautiful scene and just experience all the splendid tablescapes. It is a truly a feast for the eyes, but that’s not what’s really special about La Table.
La Table has proven to be a very successful fundraising event for IHNA for many years. We enlist table hosts and hostesses from all of the congregations in our network. These talented and dedicated volunteers then invite eight or ten friends to each donate $ 50.00 to sit at the lovely tables they create. We usually net around $12,000. All of our proceeds go directly to IHNA to be used to provide services for our guest families. This is a very important fundraiser, but that’s not what’s really special about La Table.
So, what is so special about La Table? As the event chair for quite a few years, it has been my job and my honor to offer a few closing remarks at the end of the luncheon. As I stand at the podium and look across the huge room filled with nearly three hundred beautiful, smiling people, I am always a bit overwhelmed with this crowd. Each year I realize that these lovely guests are also the committed volunteers from our thirteen host congregations and sixteen support
congregations. These are the kind people who care for our IHNA guest families week after week. I am looking at the early morning van drivers, the evening meal providers, the evening hosts, the homework helpers and the overnight hosts. I am looking at three hundred people who touch the lives of our IHNA families during their worst moments of hopelessness and despair. I am looking at the people who actually make a difference to struggling families trying to survive. I am looking at the volunteers whose kindnesses let our IHNA families know that they are important, that they are cared for and that they are loved. Seeing these devoted, compassionate people together in one room is a large part of what makes La Table so special.
Here’s the other part. As I look out at these three hundred beautiful volunteers, I am looking at people from many, many different faiths. I am looking at Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists. I am looking at Lutherans and Episcopalians. I am looking at Unitarians and Quakers. I am looking at Catholics and Protestants. I am looking at Jews and Muslims. And I am just overwhelmed! I am overwhelmed with pride in our diversity. I always wish the whole world could see the example of interfaith work we do here in Athens, Georgia! I truly believe that our diversity is our greatest strength. We may have different beliefs, we may have different styles of worship but we are more alike than we are not alike. We are united in believing one profound and powerful truth. We know that the best way to serve our God is to serve one another. We know that we have a responsibility to help those among us who are enduring hardship and suffering. This is how we live our faith. This is also how we all work together to make IHNA so successful in our community.
Coming together to celebrate with our huge network of wonderfully diverse IHNA volunteers—that’s what’s really special about La Table!
- By Wanda Culpepper