The story began — as so many stories this year have begun — with canceled plans.
The California-based business management consulting company Advoco, which has an office in Greenville, was preparing for its 8th annual user conference. The yearly gathering, dubbed “Advoco Connect,” has always been somewhat of a nerd-fest for all things enterprise asset management, a multiday celebration in Greenville of progress made and progress planned for the coming year.
Given that it was scheduled for the first week in May, however, the likelihood that the event would go on as planned seemed increasingly dim with the threat of COVID-19 looming.
“Basically it came down to us saying we would either cancel it or do it virtually,” said Mary Devine, vice president of marketing at Advoco.
Eight weeks before the event was to take place, the decision was made to go all-virtual, which was “enough time to switch, but obviously a hassle to get done,” according to Devine.
It also left an additional question: what to do with all the food that had been ordered to cater the event — enough lunches and dinners to feed hundreds of people for three days.
Marty Osborn, a partner at Advoco, decided to honor the previously arranged contract with Table 301 Catering, but instead of serving the food to conference attendees, it would go out into the community.
The initial goal was 2,000 meals, Devine said, but as other companies heard about the plans, they opted to join in as well.
Two months later, the meals are still being served — more than 11,000 so far and counting.
With the help of Table 301, NEXT Upstate, Mill Community Ministries, Trinity Lutheran Church, Peacock Marketing, Infor, Project Host, YMCA and individual donors, the “Connect for Good” initiative has raised nearly $33,000, all of which has gone to feed various nonprofits, youth groups, ministries, front-line COVID-19 workers and other vulnerable community members during the pandemic.
“Not to be cheesy about it, but it really has just been amazing to see the smiles of people,” Devine said.
The organizers behind the initiative say they hope to continue through the summer and fall, with no end in sight. And while Devine said it’s been somewhat of a tough transition learning the ropes behind running what is, in essence, a brand-new nonprofit initiative, she and the rest of the organizers believe they are only getting started.
“We just hope to keep it going as long as possible,” she said.