The discussion of the value of convention centers typically focuses on tax revenue, hotel nights, and other numbers that highlight their economic impact. On Thanksgiving, though, some business-events venues opened their doors to give back to their local communities. The typical images associated with convention centers — breakout sessions, exhibit booths, and name badges — were replaced with volunteers serving meals to thousands of their neighbors in need. Here’s a look at some of the centers that gave back on Nov. 23.
George R. Brown Convention Center – Houston, Texas
The City Wide Club’s Super Feast has been serving hungry Houstonians for the past 37 years, but this year’s meal meant even more to the community in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. More than 25,000 people came to the center for a holiday meal, and volunteers gave those in need clothing, blankets, jackets, and household items. Free haircuts, medical screenings, and flu shots were also available.
Colorado Convention Center – Denver, Colorado
In the Mile High City, the Salvation Army and grocery-store chain King Soopers served approximately 7,000 pounds of turkey at the annual holiday charity event. The team of cooks even included some Denver Broncos players.
Dayton Convention Center – Dayton, Ohio
The annual Feast of Giving took over the Dayton Convention Center, and getting to the meal was free, thanks to complimentary transportation provided by the city’s regional transit authority. In addition to turkey, the lengthy shopping list, according to the Dayton Daily News, included 2,600 pounds of mashed potatoes, 2,000 pounds of green beans, 2,000 pounds of bread stuffing, 100 gallons of gravy, and 900 pies.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center – San Antonio, Texas
Raul Jimenez, a San Antonio restaurant owner, first sponsored a Thanksgiving feast for senior citizens and those in need in 1979. Approximately 100 people came. Thirty-eight years later, the tradition has expanded to serve more than 25,000 meals and unite the community under one roof.
Richmond Convention Center – Richmond, Virginia
Approximately 3,500 people attended the annual feast in the Virginia capital, but the event wasn’t just for those in need. “A lot of people have a misconception with it,” Vicki Nelson, a volunteer for Giving Heart, told WWBT in Richmond. “This is really about involving the community to come together for a fellowship.”
Atlantic City Convention Center – Atlantic City, New Jersey
While some convention centers opened their venue to charities, the employees at Spectra by Comcast Spectacor — the company that manages the Atlantic City Convention Center — left their facility to serve food at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army. Executive Chef George Fisher prepared the meals in the convention-center kitchen.
Spreading the Word Year-Round
The positive impact the meetings industry makes on local communities isn’t confined to a few days during the holiday season at convention centers. Check out Convene’s December cover story to learn how some destinations are spreading the word about the community-service value that business events bring.
Do you have a story about your venue or organization making a big impact during the holiday season? If you have plans to help your community, we want to know about it. Write [email protected] with more information about your event.