Pitt-Bradford ‘Foodraiser’ Fills Seats, Kitchens

Empty theater with paper bags in each of its 500 seatsPitt-Bradford Arts met its goal of filling the Bromeley Family Theater with food last weekend twice over.

Unable to bring audiences to campus for arts events during the pandemic, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford held a “foodraiser” event on April 24 to reconnect with audience and community members while supporting The Friendship Table, Bradford’s soup kitchen.

Local businesses gathered food and funds in advance, and on Saturday morning, donors pulled up to the front of Blaisdell Hall for a contactless drop-off of even more donations.

As each vehicle arrived, a small crew of volunteers from The Friendship Table, Pitt-Bradford and its Arts Council and the American Association of University Women said, “Here comes somebody else!”

Donors rolled down their windows for brief but enthusiastic conversations with volunteers as they popped their trunks and hatchbacks for quick removal of groceries. In a small community like Bradford, most of the greetings and thanks were by name between folks who hadn’t seen each other in person for six, eight, ten months or more.

“It’s so good to see our patrons and friends,” said Courtney Mealy, assistant director of arts programming, who helped whisk deliveries to a backstage loading dock where they were sorted by volunteers from The Friendship Table.

two people sitting a row and a dozen seats apart in theater seatsVolunteers there sorted food into grab-and-go meals for patrons. Items that could not readily be used for meals were sorted to go to other food pantries serving Bradford.

Patty Colosimo, director of arts programming, conceived of, planned and promoted the event. She envisioned placing $10 worth of food or a donation in each of the campus theater’s 500 seats. By the end of the day, the project had exceeded her goal and collected $7,560 and food donations worth $2,750.

Ben Dansberger, a member of The Friendship Table board of directors and executive chef at Pitt-Bradford, was not surprised by the results.

“The sense of community that’s here is insane,” he said. “I’ve never lived in a place like this.” He and Joel Meyer, president of The Friendship Table board of directors and general manager for Metz Culinary Management, took over the theater’s box office to process monetary donations throughout the day.

Money from the event will go toward the Howard L. Fesenmyer Endowment Fund, which honors an active volunteer at both Pitt-Bradford and The Friendship Table. The endowment will help The Friendship Table, which served 60,000 meals in the past year, during times of lower donations. The organization is funded entirely through the community.

Joe Doriguzzi, the assistant manager of The Friendship Manager, stood on the loading dock, placing food into trucks.

“This looks like a lot of food, but it will go so quickly,” he said.

Summer is a busy time for the kitchen, treasurer Seth McClymonds explained, since children are out of school where breakfast and lunches are served. While the Bradford Area School District feeds children lunches during the summer, The Friendship Table provides food for an entire family to eat together.

As the day wound down, Longtime Friendship Table volunteer and board member Harrijane Hannon Moore expressed gratitude on behalf of the organization. “We’re thankful to Pitt-Bradford and to Pitt-Bradford Arts for taking the initiative on this foodraiser.”

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