American Winter, an HBO documentary about social services in Portland, OR, is a terrifying look at just how quickly the upper-middle and working classes alike can slip into poverty and homelessness.
Community Connection screened the film Sunday to kick off its revamped Taste of Athens. The Feb. 22 event will be scaled back considerably, moving from the Classic Center Grand Hall to the atrium, allowing the 20-plus participating chefs to focus on food and hospitality, rather than simply feeding 2,000 people.
"It's a whole new environment—hopefully something that's warm and intimate and as chef-driven as possible," Community Connection Executive Director Fenwick Broyard said.
A new event, Toast of Athens, a cocktail competition, will be added next year. Bartenders from eight local watering holes will compete to see who makes the best libation in town.
In spite of its smaller size, Broyard said he believes Taste of Athens can become an economic driver by spotlighting our nascent food scene and bringing food tourists here. A food and wine festival in Charleston, SC, for example, has a $9.8 million economic impact on that city, he said.
"We think we've got that kind of potential here," he said.
Ticket prices are the same as last year, although only a half to a third as many will be sold, and Community Connection is actively seeking out sponsorships of its main annual fundraiser. The money goes toward funding 211, a hotline that refers people in need to the appropriate services, whether it's a food bank or help with rent or utilities.
"We're all one unexpected emergency away from needing that support," Broyard said.
In other words, give money while you still can, because you might be the one calling 211 soon enough.