In this business, we get invited to a lot of events, but I am here to tell you most of them are not the kind you may remember forever.
But this one is.
Yesterday afternoon—it was late Sunday—I showed up at the Driftwood, Jimmy Everett’s place on Federal Highway in Boynton Beach that is my catcher’s mitt for a great chef-driven dinner in a casual neighborhood atmosphere. Only today Jimmy had shut it down, and turned his restaurant over to Sandy Collier, of Hey, Sandy! PR and Communications so she and a few others could host about 140 Bahamians displaced from Hurricane Dorian to a traditional Bahamian dinner.
Sandy, who was born in Freeport and grew up in the Bahamas, enlisted her friend Jerusha Terry, Chef Christina Dixion-Wells, and Mr. Brannon, aka The Conch Man, to whip up this menu: peas and rice, conch and rice, white rice, baked chicken, barbecued chicken, curried chicken, conch chowder, conch fritters, grouper fingers, snapper fingers, macaroni and cheese (spicy and regular), cole slaw, potato salad, crab salad, house salad, conch salad…
Vanilla Ice and Sharon Di Pietro as well as Polar Electric (from Freeport) donated money for the event. And then of course there was Jimmy and his staff, who treated everyone like VIPs.
There were drink tickets and an open bar, an island band (who also donated their services) playing and everyone from six to 76 nicely dressed, chatting in small family groups, enjoying the afternoon as the sun slipped lower in the sky.
I couldn’t help thinking this all could have been us, had Dorian made one lethal wobble this way. Instead, it had taken everything these people had, and decimated their island. Most of them were still living in hotels or with friends. Sandy said all they really wanted now was to go home, if there was a home. And there is not.
But you couldn’t see that in their faces yesterday. You just saw people, some in church clothes, having Sunday dinner at Jimmy’s house. Sandy was everywhere making sure there was plenty to take home and the kids were drawing chalk pictures on the patio pavers.
“I know this worked,” Sandy said, as I was leaving. “A woman just came up to me and said ‘Thank you. This feels like home.’”