- Every Tuesday evening this summer, Trinity Community Commons and Open Table Nashville offer a community supper and foot clinic aimed at connecting neighbors.
- Volunteers and recipients are encouraged to sit and get to know each other in an environment that promotes fellowship and positive relationships through diversity and across socioeconomic lines.
- Open Table Nashville was co-founded by a United Methodist pastor, and Trinity Community Commons is housed in a former historic United Methodist church building.
Two local nonprofits with United Methodist ties are partnering this summer to connect neighbors through food, fellowship and foot care.
Trinity Community Commons and Open Table Nashville host a community supper and foot clinic every Tuesday during the months of May through September. Open Table Nashville was co-founded by a United Methodist pastor, and Trinity Community Commons is housed in a former historic United Methodist church building.
Zach Lykins, Trinity Community Commons’ executive director, said the goal of the gatherings is to build relationships.
"We cater to both housed and unhoused; both financially stable and struggling. When we offer a gathering experience for all people, we get to connect people across economic classes into relationship with each other. That's really important to us," he said.
Four years ago, a friend invited Lykins to attend a community supper hosted by the organization.
“When I walked in for the first time, I immediately saw the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen breaking bread together,” he said. “That’s what hooked me was seeing the different groups that generally don’t mix sharing a table.”
After four years of volunteering for Trinity Community Commons, Lykins said he felt called from the work he had been doing to “something more local and in person,” which led him to his current role.
Lykins emphasized that the community supper gives neighbors who typically don’t have access to social gathering spaces a place to come meet others.
“There are lots of places that will deliver food and feed people,” he said. “That’s good, but the main goal of this meal is to give people a space to sit and slow down and build relationships.”
Hosting a potluck rather than a traditional soup kitchen is also by design.
“Everyone creates, serves, contributes and receives nourishment,” he said. “That communicates that we’re all children of God and we’re created in his image so we all have the capacity to give and bless others.”
Evelyn Hale, a member of East End United Methodist Church, serves as a volunteer for the Tuesday suppers along with her husband.
“We see the need and possibilities for providing care and essentials to the people in the community,” she said.
As volunteers and recipients peacefully engage with each other during the community supper, Will Compton, resource specialist for Open Table Nashville, sets up the work stations where recipients can receive foot care afterward.
Compton arrived in Nashville in the summer of 2019 to attend Vanderbilt Divinity School, where he became aware of Open Table Nashville. The nonprofit was co-founded by the Rev. Ingrid McIntyre, a United Methodist pastor and alum of the divinity school.
“There’s a really good relationship between the school and Open Table so there’s always interns coming through and I was one of those interns,” he said. “I appreciated the work they do and how they merge outreach with political advocacy.”
At the foot care clinic, recipients can soak their feet in bath salts, then receive nail trimming, callus scrubbing, basic wound care if needed and a massage with lotion.
Compton said he’s seen “an immediate joy and gratefulness” by those who’ve been served.
“A lot of people are kind of just in awe of how instant the results are. Their feet feel fresher and less weary, and it’s just nice to offer tender care to people who are on their feet all the time,” he said.
Trinity Community Commons is a new location for the foot clinic, which Compton said has benefited recipients because it’s been less crowded, allowing him and the volunteers to slow down and connect more with the individuals being treated.
“We treat people as friends rather than clients, so we appreciate getting to take the time to know them,” Compton said.
Offering a listening ear can be as important as the foot care.
“A lot of people, especially if they’re unhoused, aren’t given the time of day. They could be flying a sign at an intersection and people don’t even look at them,” he said. “I think it’s really special to be able to have a normal conversation with them and get to hear more about who they are as a person.”
Tanya, a first-time visitor to the foot clinic, said the care helps alleviate a lot of stress.
“We’re on our feet so much that it feels good to let somebody pamper them. I’m sure I’ll be back. It was pretty nice,” she said.
Terri, another first-time visitor, said, “I have arthritis and I’ve been standing all day and my feet really need this. This means the world.”
Terri said she was happy to see a familiar face in Tanya.
Both women are in a program facilitated by City Road Chapel United Methodist Church in nearby Madison, Tennessee, that provides people with transitional housing and helps them acquire more permanent housing.
That program helped Tanya to escape an abusive domestic partner.
“Someone at that program said, ‘I was tired of seeing you with black eyes,’ and he got me in the program really quick,” she said. “The church has helped me get all that established, so I’m really grateful for everyone who’s had a part in it. They’ve truly been a blessing.”
Jordan is a freelance reporter in Nashville, Tennessee.
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