My preteen eyes would scan the table spread with bubbling casseroles and gelatin salads in search of the coveted homemade macaroni and cheese. It would arrive safely in its protective Pyrex casserole carrier that kept it hot and cheesy until its unveiling on the church lawn. I knew from experience that this dish along with a certain platter of crispy fried chicken were the most desired dishes on the bountiful table and if I was to have a chance for a helping I would have to be early in the line and head straight for the prize.
Certain gatherings that require a culinary entry to pass through the door, better known as potluck dinners, are full of possibilities. Some offerings, like my childhood mac and cheese are tried and true while others lean more toward the experimental side of the world- I will never forget the first time the Middle Eastern salad tabbouleh showed up at one of my hometown potlucks- everyone was whispering about it as it seemed risky and only the adventurous took a spoonful.
Somehow without a whole lot of organization just the right amount of main dishes, sides and desserts seem to appear. But I do love the story of friend that hosted a holiday potluck and everyone brought some form of potatoes. She now takes a little more time assigning dishes to the guests.
I like the idea of potlucks because everyone plays a role and tends to bring a dish they are comfortable making and has a good chance of turning out well. It’s also a great way to try something unfamiliar and new. Each offering is delicious on its own but the real beauty comes from the collective and the people who gather to share a meal they have all worked to prepare for each other. Sharing a meal brings people together.
Once a quarter the Southwest Florida Community Foundation opens its doors for a potluck of sorts. No one is asked to bring food- just their ideas and passion for the community. The invites are not curated in any way, rather nonprofits that are interested in sharing their work with the Foundation team and other nonprofits in the region gather for a cup of coffee and conversation.
Everyone knows in advance that it is not tied to our grant making and funding, but rather a chance to share thoughts, current opportunities and ideas. Some of the organizations are well known to us while others we are hearing about for the first time. The nonprofit leaders come from across the five county region so many times they are not familiar with each other.
The gatherings produce thoughtful insights and conversations and on more than one occasion new collaborations and partnerships between organizations have been launched. There is so much good happening in our communities and caring leaders and teams bringing their best skills and talents to creating a vibrant region, it only makes sense to bring them together for the greater good- a potluck of purpose and possibilities.
All we have to do is set the table.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, we’ve invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.