Kicking Off Our First Annual Community BBQ

By Gordon McHenry, Jr., on May 4, 2022 | In Events, News

In the gatherings I’ve attended since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have been lifted, I’ve marveled at how frequently joy shows up. Perhaps it’s something we took for granted, only to be reminded during a pandemic that forced us into isolation. Now, it seems, we don’t forget: It’s good to be around one another, to experience exuberant smiles, and feel firm handshakes and warm embraces. The ability to connect, reconnect and build familial bonds is something we should make the most of, for in these times of stark polarization, it can tear down walls and reveal that our commonalities outweigh our differences.

It is in that spirit that United Way of King County and former Seattle Seahawks star Doug Baldwin are launching an event to help kick off one of the first local gatherings of the summer: the Annual Community BBQ on June 18 at Renton Memorial Stadium. The event will be rain or shine from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and we’ve designed an outing for all ages that feature tasty food, good music, family-friendly games and fun-filled surprises.

As I reflect on our vision for the BBQ, I am reminded of how Baldwin, our campaign chair, described it to us at United Way:

“We just want to get the community back together … in a location where the community is welcome and invited, with so many activities for kids and adults. It’s a time for us to relax and be around each other. I can just feel the vibe, not just in our region, but in the country and the world in general, just needing to get back to that humanity. We’ve been through a lot the last two years, with COVID and the political climate. Let’s just get back to being humans again. Our hope is that we would have people from the entire region, not just the Renton area, but we’re inviting people from Bellevue, Tacoma, Seattle, Tukwila–all over. There is no hidden agenda here, other than just come, hang out, enjoy the food and festivities, and be among your friends and neighbors.”

My hope, like Doug’s, is that young people and families choose to join us. The cost is just $10 per plate of barbecue, sides and fixings. Also, kids 6 and under are free. In addition to buying a plate, we also offer Community Plates that you can purchase for others. And if needed, you can enjoy a Community Plate—on us. It’s important to us that everyone who wants to come to the BBQ can do so and enjoy the festivities. We live in a generous community, and many people have already given Community Plates for others to enjoy at no cost.

Doug Baldwin, former Seattle Seahawks star and United Way Campaign Chair

Like others at United Way, I hope the BBQ harkens people back to similar outings, whether you call it a BBQ, a cookout, a picnic or a clambake. As I think about the BBQ, I cannot help but think back to family gatherings from my upbringing. There were family BBQs, church BBQs, and my dad was a founding member of a local chapter of African American professionals–a rarity in the Seattle area back then–that in the summertime had a big outdoor gathering for their families that centered around food. Those were a lot of fun; they nourished body and soul.

Our Annual Community BBQ also comes on the eve of Juneteenth, a federal holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. The commemoration began on June 19, 1865 and has been since marked by celebrations that include family gatherings over food and festivities. While this event is not an official Juneteenth celebration, it is in that same spirit that we gather to recognize the importance of community as we look forward to brighter futures.

At United Way, we work toward a racially just society where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. That’s our purpose; it’s how we start our day and how we end our day. And that begins with community. We are so excited to be part of a gathering where our hope is that people see each other, make and renew connections and nourish the body and soul through food. We plan for this to be a successful event experienced by all–both this year and for years to come.


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