In April 1983, a small group of transplanted Southerners looking for a way to bring a little Southern hospitality to their adopted home of Washington, D.C. held the first official Taste of the South (TOTS) gala. When interest was higher than anticipated, they realized this fun party could be much more.
Taste of the South has grown into an established non-profit organization that hosts one of Washingtonians’ favorite annual events. Since 1983, Taste of the South has raised more than $7.5 million, supported over 230 charitable organizations, and delivered a measurable impact on the lives of those it touches. From helping to end homelessness for 57 families in Virginia to supporting 93 scholarships for children of soldiers killed, wounded, or injured in action, Taste of the South consistently maximizes its reach and resources to meet tangible needs in communities.
For the 38th gala, Taste of the South is supporting organizations that focus on the recovery and empowerment of individuals battling substance abuse. The gala, originally scheduled for April 2020, was rescheduled to July 24, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the postponement in 2020, TOTS issued an initial donation of more than $62,000 to their supported organizations to help meet immediate needs.
“Communities across the South were already struggling to meet the growing challenge of substance abuse even before the pandemic swept the country,” Mary Dee Beal, 38th Taste of the South Chairman said. “Over the last year, we heard from our charity partners that they were especially feeling the ripple effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, and Taste of the South stepped up to respond. I am especially proud of the ways the volunteers serving on Taste of the South’s committee navigated an uncertain year in order to support these organizations.”
The theme for this year’s gala takes on some familiar nostalgia, guiding guests on a retro road trip through some of the South’s best roadside stops. The gala itself has also hit the road — moving to a new home at The Anthem at District Wharf. As one of Washington’s first events in over a year, Taste of the South took advantage of the opportunity to support the hard-hit hospitality sector. They created the Taste of the South Rest Stop Fund to purchase favorite TOTS menu items from their long-time and local restaurant donors, investing more than $25,000 to support the restaurant community.
“After a challenging year, Taste of the South is proud to support the livelihoods of hard-working individuals in the events and service industry, and we look forward to reuniting with everyone on July 24,” Beal said.
The featured charity for the 38th Taste of the South is The Bridge. Located in Dallas, Texas, this organization facilitates recovery from homelessness, substance use, and mental health barriers by designing an individualized care and recovery plan for each guest. They prioritize development of employment skills through workforce partnerships with local organizations.
After receiving their first-round donation, The Bridge President and CEO David Woody said, “The treasure Taste of the South has committed to our work will certainly address the additional unbudgeted costs we have incurred as we sustain our facility’s cleanliness, personal protective equipment, and increased staff needs.”
In addition to supporting 12 other Southern charities that focus on substance abuse recovery, Taste of the South will also support Samaritan Inns, based in Washington, D.C. Since their founding in 1985, the mission of Samaritan Inns has been to transform the lives of homeless and at-risk individuals and families who suffer from substance use disorders, moving them along a life-changing pathway from addicted and impoverished to contributing members of society.
To learn more about Taste of the South’s 2021 supported organizations, visit their website.
Taste of the South’s black-tie gala will be held on July 24, 2021 at The Anthem in District Wharf and promises to be a fun-filled evening. Tickets for the event have completely sold out. To learn more about the event and charities, visit the Taste of the South website.