On May 1, Circles of Hope held its $100-a-plate luncheon at the United Methodist Church in Sylva.

Two hundred and forty caring and compassionate individuals took time from their busy schedules to attend as a way to help those in our community who are working hard to achieve economic stability.

Ending poverty requires the engagement of the community and on May 1 we saw evidence of a community who truly cares. Thanks to the work of so many, we raised over $27,000.

This was due to the efforts of Mary Slagle and Sue Bartlett, who headed the luncheon committee. We want to thank those who served as table ambassadors and who invited seven others to be seated at their table. Mary Anne Farrell, advisory board chairperson, gave the welcome; Dawn Neatherly, Circles coordinator, gave the introduction; Craig Day, owner of The Paper Mill Lounge, was the Community Voice; Circle Leaders Tina Aten, Trevor Gates and Amber Stinchcomb told what Circles had meant to them; Linda Potter spoke about being an ally; Yona Wade gave the beautiful invocation, and Yona Wade and Susan Belcher sang a lovely benediction that was followed by the benediction prayer by Kelly Brown.

Students from the Jackson County School of Alternatives served the food, which was provided by Brad Jacobs of Lil’Harvey’s Catering.

We want to especially thank Ginger Fullbright and her wonderful kitchen staff, who worked so diligently behind the scenes.

There were also the wonderful individuals who worked the day before carrying dishes from the First Baptist Church up to the Methodist Church so we would have enough for all the tables.

We would have had to carry glasses as well but Sue Bartlett was kind enough to donate glasses that we can use every year.

Then there were the amazing members of our community who worked five hours setting up the tables the day before and then worked five hours taking everything down. The flowers for the tables were so beautiful and were donated and arranged by Kathy Booth, Jennie Hunter, Jenny Cox, Ginger Fullbright and Mary Anne Roos.

And then there was Deborah Harris, who managed the contributions and the information folders so that all these things were well organized and correctly noted.

Karson Walston was in charge of sound and Linda Potter prepared the slide show. Chuck and Rita Norris provided the music during the meal and Bill Ogletree, a professor at WCU, had his book, “Mean Christianity,” for sale. All the profits from this book go to Circles of Hope.

To say that it takes a village to adequately prepare for and carry out such an event as this luncheon would be putting it mildly, and we cannot thank everyone enough who had a part in this fundraiser.

I tell everyone that Circles of Hope is a “God thing” and his blessings certainly extended into the luncheon. So my prayers of thanksgiving, love and blessings go out to each and every one of you who attended the luncheon and who had a part in making this event possible. May God richly bless you indeed!

We are especially grateful for our volunteers for Circles, our teachers (Sheri Turk, Patty Padgett and Lyn Carver), meal providers and monthly donors. Your constant dedication and support make Circles successful. Thank you for your present and future dedication to Circles and the betterment of our community.

Circles has been in operation for four years and our goal is to help 20 families a year work their way out of poverty. Every Tuesday night from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., Circles of Hope meets in the First Baptist Church Mission and Fellowship Center.

Thanks to local churches and individuals, the Circle Leaders (those working their way out of poverty) receive a wonderful healthy meal, childcare and classes designed to enable them to reach their goals. After the Circle Leaders graduate from the 15 weeks of classes, they are assigned Allies (people who serve as cheerleaders/encouragers).

They continue to come and are provided classes by community volunteers who give programs on resources available in the community, and such classes as writing now being taught by Jonathan Bradshaw, a professor at Western Carolina University.

If you would like to learn more about Circles we invite you to join us any Tuesday night for dinner. We guarantee that when you walk into the center you will feel the love that is always present and you will meet some incredible people! Please come.

Ann Melton is Circles of Hope Founder.