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Bill Rawlinson: Successful CAFE Huntington is looking for more volunteers

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 10:50 PM

Just about three years ago, in March of 2011, I was driving home listening to NPR's show titled "Marketplace" when I heard a segment about an amazingly cool monthly event in St. Louis called "Sloup". Sloup, or St. Louis Soup is a monthly dinner that serves as a fundraiser for creative projects run by volunteers and fully funded by the diners at each month's dinner.

As soon as I heard the story I knew that a similar project would work here if only I could find someone who would be willing to do the lions share of the work by organizing each of the monthly dinners. I didn't have the time to find volunteers or to recruit willing cooks or to solicit donated food. Living in almost any other small city I would have just given up there because I wouldn't have had an outlet for sharing the idea or any mechanism for finding the leader the project needed.

Fortunately, I'm in Huntington and we have two amazing resources for pairing ideas with people. The first is the Herald Dispatch who generously lets Create Huntington post an article within it each week. The second are the Chat-n-Chew's which happen each week from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the lobby of the Frederick building. The Chat-n-Chews are open forums for discussion of positive ideas that can help make Huntington a better city. I knew that if I presented the St. Louis Sloup idea at a Chat-n-Chew there was a chance that one of the many passionate people who attend each week might be willing to step up and run with the idea.

I was right. Simone Kompanek jumped on the idea and instantly turned it from an idea into reality called CAFE Huntington. By May we had the first dinner at the 27th Street (McClellan) Park with 28 people in attendance. Joe Cox, a local artist, won the initial $280 so that he could attempt to set up a solo art exhibit. Since then we have had about 30 different dinners and have given out up to $720 in one evening. The monthly prize is based on the number of people in attendance -- each person pays $10 for dinner and all ticket sales fund the prize.

Life happens though and now neither Simone nor I can spare the time to coordinate the monthly dinners so we are attempting to build a team of people who can share the monthly effort amongst themselves. So far we have a few volunteers but we are looking for more. If you'd like to learn more about the project or, even better, if you'd like to get involved then please come to this week's Chat-n-Chew meeting. I'll be there answering questions and helping each of the volunteers to get to know one another. Even if you decide that CAFE Huntington isn't really up your ally there are plenty of other fun, exciting, and innovative projects being discussed at each Chat-n-Chew so you might find the perfect mechanism for you to get involved with.

I hope to see you there. If you can't make it but would still like to get involved then feel free to email me at bill@cafehuntington.com.

Bill Rawlinson is a lifelong nomad who has settled down and claimed Huntington as his home.