Downtown businesses celebrate and support community with block party fundraiserBy Emma Cary | 11/05/2017 10:13pm
By Emma Cary | Contributing Writer
The live music could be heard from blocks away. Parents hand-in-hand with their children gathered with college students, local vendors and bands in an event that aimed to bring the Tuscaloosa community together.
UPerk Coffee and Loosa Brews' joint block party, “Beans and Brews,” welcomed coffee lovers and beer drinkers alike on Friday night to enjoy the city of Tuscaloosa's community.
The local bands played as attendees meandered through the crowds and stopped to admire the vendors in their craft. Artists sold knitted scarves, hats and painted pottery during the night. Food trucks were parked along the streets, ready for hungry customers. One student turned to her friend immediately upon smelling her food and insisted on knowing where she bought it.
First Presbyterian Church opened UPerk Coffee in August 2017, and from the beginning, the coffee shop wanted to be community-minded and welcoming to all.
“We decided that one of the first things we wanted to do for the community of Tuscaloosa was throw a big party,” said James Goodlet, the director community pastor at UPerk Coffee. “We went across the street and talked to our friends at Loosa to have them join us.”
UPerk and Loosa Brews utilized the street between their buildings to sell food and drinks to attendees. The businesses also invited local artists to set up booths and display their creations. Four local bands performed throughout the night. Their hope for the evening was that others felt included and unified as a community.
“Our whole spirit at UPerk is one of inclusivity," Goodlet said. "Our mantra here is we are a community cultivating change through Christ’s love for all people. And that’s the atmosphere we hope to portray at the block party.”
Britton Williams, a junior majoring in economics and Spanish, serves as a “Table Setter,” an intern to UPerk’s connected church, First Presbyterian Church. His involvement for the event was to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.
“It’s about fun for all of Tuscaloosa: families, college students and that engagement with different groups of people," Williams said. "We really want to focus on community engagement and reaching out to other groups in Tuscaloosa. The whole idea was to bring people together.”
With UPerk’s desire to be inclusive and community-minded, the companies decided to dedicate the event to a cause. “Beans and Brews” partnered with Grace Presbyterian Church’s Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry to collect canned goods to give to the hungry. UPerk and Loosa Brews encouraged attendees to bring canned food. The event also hosted seven other organizations around Tuscaloosa to set up tents and share what they are doing in the community as well.
Jennifer Sheppard, the manager of Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, said she felt excited that the food pantry was the recipient of the “Beans and Brews” event.
“I love that they wanted to work with us," Sheppard said. "We took in about 414 lbs. of canned foods. It was very helpful for us, and that food will go directly into the bags of food we pass out in December to families in need."
All of the food pantry’s food and money comes from private donations. The food pantry gives 350 to 400 bags of food per month. In October, Loaves and Fishes gave 6,772 lbs. of food to Tuscaloosa community.
“There’s such a huge need in this community," Sheppard said. "We can’t financially provide everything, but we decided as a church that we can help provide food. It’s important that families have food. It’s not much, but it’s something we can do to help.”