As for 12 Bones helping Welcome Table, the whole idea was really born soon after we shut down on Saturday, March 21. For months, we had actually been on the schedule to prepare Sunday breakfast for Welcome Table the very next day, March 22. Working with the team at Haywood Street Congregation for this food donation event is something we partake in twice a year and it has become a tradition for us. We truly enjoy doing it and we’re proud to play a small part in this great service to the community. As a team, we just felt like it was important to honor that commitment despite our closing and the uncertainty that lay ahead.
The following week was very tough. With tears in our eyes, Angela and I had just laid off our entire staff of 45 from both restaurants and our brewery on March 20 and 21. As we settled into the new unknown, we did our best to rest a bit, regroup and then begin the process of figuring out a way forward. At 12 Bones, we are used to shutting down every January for a three week winter break. It serves as some much needed time off for our staff, and a “thank you” for a hard year.
With the situation evolving rapidly, it became apparent that we were going to be shuttered longer than a week or two. I started thinking about all of the food we still had on hand in our rush to close, some of which would not keep for several weeks. I also began to realize that Welcome Table, along with so many other charitable organizations, would likely be experiencing a severe reduction in the number of restaurants that would normally be available to offer their time and resources because so many had to shut down. Therefore, on Friday, March 27 I sent David Holland a basic email asking, “Are you in need of restaurants to cook and bring food?”, to which he responded simply with, “Yes”. It was obvious we were both very busy and doing our best to adjust on the fly like everyone else.
At that point, we spoke to a handful of our team members about doing whatever we could to help. Unfortunately, the big caveat was that any help they were willing to provide would have to be voluntary since we 12 Bones could not afford to pay staff without being open.
During this time, I had also reached out to our main food supplier, PFG, about whether or not they had any food available that they would be willing to donate because we could not pay for it. With so many restaurants closed, PFG was experiencing a ripple effect and needed to offload food. That said, they stepped up and donated everything from milk and meat, to flour tortillas and bread.
In those early weeks when 12 Bones was not operating it was like a strange episode of Chopped. We had to cobble together meals with whatever ingredients we had on hand or were able to get donated. First, we made chicken and catfish wraps with baked beans and grits followed by meals like sliced pork loin with a red onion sauce, roasted potatoes and collard greens and then chicken legs, wild rice and mixed vegetables.
Word managed to get around about our efforts and many folks reached out about helping our cause in some way. We were so fortunate to receive generous financial gifts from Lt Gov Dan Forest as well as several of our regulars. That money not only enabled us to continue donating to Welcome Table weekly for the past two months, but we we’re also able to expand our food donations to include ABCCM, Lifehouse, Veterans Restoration, Food Connection, Civic Center shelter, healthcare workers, etc. Each week we’ve prepared approximately 1000 meals for those in need with a limited staff.
At the end of the day, we just wanted to do whatever we could to help out. Selfishly, it got us out of the house and focused on doing good instead of watching bad news on TV. To say that we have been humbled by the outpouring of goodwill would be an understatement. It has been incredibly heartwarming to witness so many people willing to go above and beyond to be a part of the solution, not the least of whom have been many of our beloved staff.
Sometimes, it’s funny how life works out. If we had not been scheduled to prepare breakfast that Sunday in March, Welcome Table may not have been at the top of my mind and things may have unfolded differently. As it was, maybe we were able to spring into action a bit sooner and fill a few bellies with a little comfort food and a side of hope for better times.
Peace, love and cue,
Bryan, Angela and the 12 Bones Team