25TH SEEDS Harvest Dinner Anniversary: Getting to know the partners and special guests

“For a quarter of a century, SEEDS has sought to uplift communities in Downtown Durham through growing, cooking and sharing food,” said the SEEDS foundation on their Harvest Dinner invitation. “We hope that you will join us for a celebration of 25 years of SEEDS history and to support the next 25 years of building the capacity of the next generation of Durham youth through transformation experiences in an urban garden.”

Many food vendors come out to sample their bakery items as guests celebrate the Annual Harvest Dinner. A list of vendors include: Loaf, The Bagel Bar, Boxcarr Creamery, Saladelia and Lucky’s. (Staff photo by Cameron Rogers)

The Pavilion of Durham Central Park had been invaded by the sweet smells of wine, fresh bread, chocolate, and pastries. The sounds of festive jazz music and laughter are what greeted guests that lined up on the road of Pavilion to be checked into the 25th Anniversary SEEDS Harvest Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 27.

The local Durham community welcomes SEEDS every year with open arms for the arrival of the festive dinner. “A celebration of the best of the season,” a SEEDS employee described the Harvest Dinner celebration. This celebration invites local food vendors who produce the freshest organic food and beverages. The selections range from local fruit shrub soda to fruit flavored red wine- Carignan and artisan bread with European cheeses to whole hog BBQ sliders.

The South Eastern Efforts Developing Spaces Inc was founded in 1994 by Brenda Brodie and Annice Kenan. During their quarter-century effort, they have partnered with various organizations in the community. Some of these partnerships include Burt’s Bees, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Earthshare, East Durham Children’s Initiative and last but not least, Durham Farmers’ Market.

The opening of the festivities started with a local Durham band, Shaquim Muldrow Trio.

The Jazz trio includes a local N.C Central University student whom the trio is named after, Shaquim Muldrow. They attended last year’s dinner and decided to come back once again to please the crowd with some melodies from earthy grooves of soul jazz to jittery and upbeat. While guests had some good soulful music playing in the background, they mingled while looking over silent auctions assembled by Am Fund.

Am Fund is a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 by Wade West and Barbara West in Orlando, Florida, with a mission of “raising funds for other nonprofits in the United States. This event was also a three-year anniversary for the partnership of Am Fund and SEEDS.

Monica Sakurai is the director of marketing for Am Fund. When asked why she finds her job important to her and the best experience working with Am Fund, her reply was full of enthusiasm: “I have the best job in the world. I am a professional horseback rider and I have had several head injuries, concussions with severe side effects. I supported an organization in North Carolina called ‘Hind’s Feet Farm’ that deals with people that have head injuries. Hearing some of these patients bounce back from them was probably the most personal and to know we were raising funds for them, really made a difference to me.” This is Sakurai’s second year to have the opportunity to participate in the annual SEEDS Harvest Dinner.

AmFund’s auction table displays all of their bucklet list packages made for this special occasion. (Staff photo by Cameron Rogers)

People gathered time and time again to get at the silent trip auction. The shock and impressed smiles on their faces evident that the trips were worth writing their name down on the paper to bid. There were trips from every corner of the world with specific themes including Romance of France, Sedona Spa Getaway, Castles or Ireland, Pleasures and Treasures of Tuscany. One participant of the silent auction was Christopher Graves. He has been a loyal member to SEEDS ever since his wife, Tiffany Graves, became a member of the board of directors. “We have children who are a part of the summer program and after-school program. So, I decided to look into a membership,” said Tiffany. “It has been a great experience being on the board and fundraising team.”

The first silent auction ended at 7 p.m. followed by seating, dinner, and some impressive comical speeches.

Jasmine stands to speak on her child and her own personal experiences of becoming members in the SEEDS community. (Staff photo by Cameron Rogers)

Jasmine is a mother of a child who participated in the SEEDLINGS Summer Program and Jasmine belongs to the special event committee. Her speech was dedicated to the amazing memories of the past year shared with her daughter.

“I asked my daughter: what would you tell other kids about SEEDS summer camp? And she said with all the insight of an eight-year-old. ‘It was great.’ Can you imagine such eloquence?” Jasmine said for the introduction of her speech. She expressed how thankful to be a part of an organization that gives back tremendously to their local community. Jasmine has found a way to connect with children in the SEEDS program, she is looked upon as not just a mother, but a mentor, guardian, friend, and a loving teacher.

“She is always there for me,” said 11-year-old Adrian Platt who has been a part of the SEEDS after-school, SEEDLINGS, for about two years. The after-school program is open from 3-6 p.m. during weekdays. The program, directed by Herb Thornton, focuses on growth in knowledge of gardening and cooking and aiding children of grades 1-5 in academic tutoring and literacy — in addition to “cultivation of life skills and environmental stewardship.”

With enthusiasm, Adrian explained how he assisted with some of the decorations on the tables, taking pride in the efforts he taken to make this event a success, and the knowledge, love, and family he has gained from the SEEDS program.

A phenomenal dish made by Pitchfork Provisions. (Staff photo by Cameron Rogers)

Once the natural sunlight in the skies started to set, the luminous white lights began to grow brighter as they hung above the festive participants. The jazz music seemed to grow, to the delight of the guests.  The atmosphere was amazing, but not as amazing as the dinner selection that topped it off. There were many vendors there to greet the guests with smiles as they picked up specific foods.

A vendor, Melina’s Pasta, sponsored an tasty dish called fig & gorgonzola ravioli, a crisp dish made with dried figs, wonton wrappers and crumbled salty gorgonzola cheese. Pitchfork Provisions graced the table with ‘Smoked Mozzarella & Saffron Arancini’ served with chilled tomato basil sauce. These two dishes were a major hit.

One of the guests was a political candidate for N.C State Representative (District 31), Zack Hawkins. On Monday, Feb 12, Zack Hawkins officially announced his run for the representative position. Hawkins has dedicated many years in leadership positions; his latest role earned was 1st Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Hawkins graduated from Elizabeth City State University with a B.S in Biology. He reached for the next level and received an M.S. in Biology from North Carolina Central University.

“I had grandparents (who)  during their lives they had to decide between pills or bills. This is not the way anyone should live, especially in a state as great as North Carolina,” said political candidate Hawinks.

Hey says his main goal is to focus on bringing the poverty rates down and removing the financial obstacles of the lower class. The way he has expressed this is through improved education. He explained that he wants to inform the youth of the many opportunities available to them and why knowledge holds power. “A better North Carolina,” is his slogan. On Oct. 6 from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.. he will be showing credibility to the slogan by hosting a ‘Hurricane Florence Donation Drop-Off’ event. Hawkins asks all his fellow North Carolinians to bring items to those who have lost their homes and belongings due to Hurricane Florence. Please click here for more information.

Zack Hawkins (middle) focuses on the mouthwatering food in front of him as he dines with other guests. (Staff photo by Cameron Rogers)

The night slowly wound down with closing remarks from the SEEDS staff. Every non-profit organization has its importance in the community, and as SEEDS strives to keep the youth and its local community well harvested mentally, spiritually and physically— they will need countless supporters. They closed by asking for final donations and ending the last silent auction.

Guests enjoyed themselves as the jazz music played on into the night. The 25th Anniversary of SEEDS Harvest Dinner was a night of celebration over victories and successes. The staff looks forward to another quarter century of memories.