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OWENS: Power of people improved week

It’s been a tough week. Maybe you’ve felt it — a long campaigning season come to a close. We’re all exhausted, and yet, I’m encouraged by the people who rise up to offer help. It’s the power of people, and I’m seeing it in all kinds of ways.
 
Today, hundreds of volunteers are at the Georgia State Railroad Museum lifting boxes, hanging signs, moving furniture and preparing to welcome thousands of guests to the Taste of Savannah, an event that’s part of Savannah Food & Wine Festival.
 
It may not seem like much that the volunteers are doing, lifting boxes and hanging signs, but they’re a part of something bigger at play.
 
This one festival, happening this week, will bring in more than $5.5 million into our economy through direct spending from the guests who are coming to partake in the festival, eat atrestaurants, stay in hotels, and shop in stores. That money coming in is taxed to help with the services and infrastructure that we so readily enjoy. It’s money to help provide jobs. It’s money to boost our local economy, and it’s money that wouldn’t otherwise be here if it weren’t for the power of people.
 
Last year, we had more than 350 volunteers serving as “Agents of Southern Hospitality.” They helped with setup, registration, food and wine distribution and assisting the celebrity chefs, among other things.
 
We had distributors and chefs pull away from their busy schedules to be a part of what’s happening with Savannah Food & Wine Festival. The work each of these people did was surely not easy. But most did it because they love food and wine, they love to share Savannah, or they love to give back to the community.
 
That’s another huge part of the festival. Every year, Savannah Food & Wine Festival gives back to the community in so many ways, one way is through TLC Scholarship Fund that has awarded over $75,000 to local students.
 
In addition to the $75,000, the festival has helped raise more than $150,000 for local, Savannah non-profit organizations since the festival’s inception in 2013. Some of those organizations have included Bethesda Academy, Patrick Ansley Williams Scholarship Fund at Savannah Technical College, Savannah Harbor Foundation, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, James Beard Foundation, United Way of the Coastal Empire and West Broad Street YMCA Also, several of the festival events showcase charity partners in raising funds and awareness. So far this week, we’ve had events benefiting the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Seed Life Skills, James Beard Foundation and the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless Tiny House Project.
 
Today, we’ll be partnering with the Coastal Heritage Society and the Georgia State Railroad Museum and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. So, if you’re looking for a way to enliven your spirits , join us today at Taste of Savannah at the Georgia Railroad Museum from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Buying a ticket helps you become a part of the power of people.
 
Michael Owens is the president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council and co-founder/president of the Savannah Food & Wine Festival. You can find out more about the festival at www.savannahfoodandwinefest.com.

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