Later this year, The Fillmore Silver Spring will host Gavin DeGraw, Sum 41 and The All-American Rejects.
But on Thanksgiving, the concert venue on Colesville Road hosted homeless and low-income people who cannot afford a Thanksgiving dinner, let alone tickets for these shows, at a special lunch.
The “Giving Thanks” lunch was The Fillmore’s first community event for those in need during the holidays. Held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, venue employees and volunteers prepared a meal for more than 100 people to enjoy in The Fillmore’s concert hall while jazz music played.
“It’s a surprise that such a classy place would have something like this,” said Lily, a woman attending the lunch.
Volunteer Virginia Pantella of Silver Spring said The Fillmore lends itself to this unique atmosphere.
“It doesn’t feel like a charity event, and for a lot of people that feels good because they feel special,” Pantella said.
The Fillmore reached out to the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Council members, and local churches for support. It also promoted the event on The Fillmore website and through social media.
Donations of supplies and time came from community members and businesses. The Double Tree Silver Spring supplied tables and the food was prepared by Spectrum, The Fillmore’s regular concessions provider. Mad Dog Jazz, an ensemble that performs at the FreshFarm Silver Spring farmers market, played on The Fillmore’s stage during the lunch.
“The Fillmore is all about music and community, and Thanksgiving provides a really great opportunity for us to give back, not just with music but also with friendship and assistance, to those in need,” said Stephanie Steele, general manager for The Fillmore.
A selection of donated clothing, books and toys were available for guests. Volunteers filled care packages with food and clothing items, and handed them out to guests as they left the venue.
Although they were prepared for 500 people, volunteers served more than 100. Leftover food was donated to Shepherd’s Table, a Silver Spring nonprofit that provides meals and other basic services to the homeless, and to the Montgomery County Police 3rd District command stations.
“We want to make sure we’re able to share the love when we’re done and make sure nothing goes to waste,” Steele said.
Ely, who only gave his first name, learned about the event from the Shepherd’s Table.
“It’s everything. It means a lot to us,” he said about the meal.
More than 120 people volunteered to serve food, greet guests, and prepare care packages.
Council members George Leventhal (D-At large), Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4), Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) and Hans Riemer (D-At large) served food to the guests.
Navarro said it is important for county residents to remember those in need during the holidays.
“We are so fortunate here in Montgomery County. We have great resources but also great poverty,” Navarro said. According to county statistics, about 72,000 residents live in poverty, which for a family of four would be an annual income of less than $23,000.
Riemer agreed with Navarro.
“As a county official it’s important for me to be in touch with the people we’re helping,” he said. “Montgomery County is a great place to live but there are a lot of people who don’t have a lot to eat.”
Guests and volunteers agreed that The Fillmore was an unexpected location to host a Thanksgiving meal.
Pat, a woman from the D.C. area who attended the lunch, had previously attended overcrowded Thanksgiving lunches. She said she preferred this lunch because of its atmosphere.
“It’s unexpected. I didn’t know they did anything like this,” Pat said.
Dan Pier of Takoma Park volunteered with his wife and two young children. He said he was impressed with the concert hall’s decision to organize the event.
“I was very surprised when I found out what venue it was,” Pier said. “To know they’re in an entirely different business and to reach out in the community in this way says a lot about The Fillmore.”
Although all volunteers received two tickets to Saturday’s Delta Spirit concert, some said seeing the show was never an incentive to serve others Thanksgiving Day.
“I’m a strong believer in community service,” Pantella said. “When you reach out to others you improve your life as well.”
Riemer said this event has the potential to bring the community together in new ways.
“I think this is a great start for the event and I can see in the coming years that this will be a great hallmark for the holidays,” he said.
Steele plans to host a “Giving Thanks” lunch every year and collaborate with businesses in Silver Spring to make it the best it can be.
“I want it to be bigger and better. It’s gone amazingly well this year. I’m looking forward to a greater turnout and sharing our blessings with those in the community who need it most,” Steele said.