Consider yourself invited to the table at a community gathering that amounts to far more than a hill of beans.
To raise funds for the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal’s programs and services throughout the Kanawha Valley, the 26th Annual Big Bean Dinner, also known with broad familiarity as the Beans and Cornbread Dinner, will be served from 6 until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, at Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church on Charleston’s West Side.
“For us, this is our premier fundraiser,” RCCR Executive Director Kevin Jones explained last week. “It supports all the programs of the RCCR — and many of those have been expanded on during the pandemic. It’s a result of our meeting needs and looking at gaps in our community and how we can close them. It all comes back to affordable housing and how to help members of the community find affordable housing.
“Other groups have fundraising dinners, of course, but we created this one to be more casual and informal,” he said. “It’s more about coming together. It’s the giving season, when people are looking at ways to help others, and it’s always been held on the Thursday before Thanksgiving.”
Thursday evening’s benefit dinner will feature a down-home, Southern-style menu of meat or vegetarian brown beans, cornbread, collard greens, roasted potatoes, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and a sweet tooth-pleasing smorgasbord of freshly prepared desserts.
A silent auction will be underway during the dinner, as well, with items for bid to include a themed gift baskets, gift certificates, and a variety of desserts made by volunteers.
Local musician Angela Jones will provide music at the event as well. “She’s a member of St. Marks United Methodist Church, which is one of our partner congregations, and a Capital High School graduate. She sings or plays her flute with a variety of different folks throughout the area,” Kevin Jones said.
One steadfast presence of the dinner/fundraiser will return this year as well. Margaret Easton, the sister of the RCCR’s first executive director, Sandra Hamlin, has donned her apron and cooked the beans every year of the event.
“She prepares some of the best down-home Southern cooking comfort food you will taste,” Jones declared. “Margaret has been such an asset in keeping this dinner together through many different RCCR directors. She’s a core fixture of the bean dinner.”
Easton and approximately 40 fellow volunteers will get cooking at the start of next week to prepare the fundraising feast. “Volunteer bakers bake two of each dessert, one for the the table and one for the silent auction. Other volunteers get all of the supplies we need, such as table decorations. Volunteers are really integral to the success of the bean dinner,” Jones said.
Rewards from the repast
Funds raised from the dinner will enable the RCCR to continue its mission of providing housing and other support and services to the homeless, men in recovery, low-income families, and others.
This fall, for instance, the RCCR is rehabilitating a motel in Jefferson and three, multi-family properties on the West Side, to provide affordable housing — 32 rental units — to individuals and families earning less than 50% of the Area Median Income.
The RCCR is also constructing four, single-family homes in Dunbar and one single-family home in North Charleston and rehabilitating two, single-family properties on the West Side. These properties will be available to first-time home buyers who are at 80% AMI.
The RCCR also provides housing counseling services to first-time home buyers and foreclosure prevention services to homeowners who are facing financial hardships in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
RCCR offers four program areas toward homeownership:
- Recovery housing that provides a safe environment for men to recover from addiction and homelessness. Established in 1989, Samaritan Inn has helped more than 800 men transition back into society with stable employment, affordable housing, and personal recovery programs and strategies.
- Rental housing for low-and moderate-income families and individuals who earn 50% or less of the AMI. Rentals include affordable efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom units in Charleston, St. Albans, and Hurricane.
- Home ownership, which includes individual housing counseling for prospective first-time home buyers, foreclosure prevention for homeowners, and new home development for families who earn 80% or less of the AMI. Since 1995, the RCCR has helped more than 700 families become first-time homeowners.
Supportive community services for homeless individuals, including a managed storage center for their personal belongings, rapid rehousing to help families who are currently homeless to find housing quickly and cover their rental start-up costs, a street outreach that engages with those living in unsheltered locations to ensure their basic needs are met while supporting them along routes to housing stability.
Stepping up to the plates
For tickets to the Big Bean Dinner, which cost $50 each for dine-in or take-out orders, or to receive more information about the fundraiser, contact the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal at www.rccr.org or 304-346-6398.
Dinner orders can also be donated to others, and additional financial donations are welcome to support the RCCR cause.
While the pandemic restricted the last two Big Bean Dinners to strictly take-out service, the in-person, sit-down option is back this year. “We’re excited to to reconnect again; a lot of our supporters come directly from the congregations of our 33-member coalition. Some people actually prefer to-go orders, though; it fits better with their lifestyles, so we’ve incorporated that as an option with our sit-down dinner this year. We still have a small percentage of meals allocated for to-go this year. It’s something we actually tossed around pre-COVID, to see how it worked. Of course, during COVID, we had to adapt to incorporate that. It’s definitely a positive that came out of the pandemic,” Jones said.
To-go orders will be available for pickup from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
General support tickets are also available for those who may not be able to attend or order next week, Jones noted. “Those funds go back to the RCCR. People can donate individual meals that will go to the unsheltered that evening, provided by our street outreach team.”
Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church is located at 317 Washington St., W., in Charleston.
“Bream was selected for the dinner this year, because they’re a very integral partner to the RCCR,” Jones said. “They’re very focused on providing services to the unsheltered, and they really stepped up during COVID-19. As a community church, Bream is dedicated to creating and expanding services to fill those gaps in the community. We’re always very happy and grateful to work with them,” he said, adding that the RCCR maintains three offices within Bream.
Big Bean Dinner sponsors this year include City National Bank, Truist, Lewis Glasser, Motown, Fifth Third Bank, United Bank, Mundell Financial Group, Potesta Engineers and Environmental Consultants, CareFirst, and State Farm Insurance Agent Cameron Vance.
The RCCR is based at The Samaritan Inn at 1117 Quarrier St. in Charleston. According to its website, last year, the RCCR assisted 367 families and individuals through its outreach services, provided more than 16,000 hours of community service, helped 207 families and individuals through supportive housing programs, and distributed more than 3,100 items of clothing and more than 2,000 “care packages” and items to unsheltered individuals.