Local visioning team behind “Sunday Supper” wins national PR award   

The communal dinner that stretched down the center of Raleigh was conceived in the weeks following eastern N.C. devastation from Hurricane Matthew and raised almost $200k. 

Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh is filled with people attending the Sunday Supper on November 13, 2016. The event was held to raise money for communities in Eastern North Carolina that were impacted by Hurricane Matthew. (Madeline Gray / North State Journal)

RALEIGH –  Last November’s Sunday Supper, an event designed to gather the community together to raise funds for Hurricane Matthew, has earned local public relations agencies Eckel & Vaughan and Kohn Associates a national public relations award.  

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) honored the agencies with the Silver Anvil Award, an award designed to recognize excellence in public relations and communications. Eckel & Vaughan and Kohn Associates were presented the award for the two teams’ collaboration in establishing The Sunday Supper.  

As Hurricane Matthew made its way up the east coast in early October 2016, it made landfall near Charleston and slowly engulfed the region with drenching rains and devastating wind gusts. Eastern North Carolina suffered historic flooding, with nearly all major rivers exceeding record levels, leading to 26 deaths, 680,000 without power statewide, and an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage. People were forced to abandon homes and businesses, and in some cases, entire communities became ghost towns. 

While Matthew’s immediate aftermath brought anguish and exhaustion, it also brought gratitude and hope. As families and neighbors checked in on each other, shared water and food, mopped basements, hauled away ruined furniture and fallen trees, help also began pouring in from near and far through impromptu book drives, fundraisers and care package parties. Inspired by the broad sense of community that was taking shape across the state, a vision began to form in Raleigh. 

“Here we were, a few kids from eastern North Carolina trying to figure out how to help our neighbors in need. The hurricane added to the fatigue across the community due to a divisive presidential election,” said Joyce Kohn of Kohn Associates. “Harris (Vaughan, partner at Eckel & Vaughan) and I knew we had to do something—it was just a matter of figuring out what.” 

The agencies developed The Sunday Supper with the goal of bringing people together for a meal, neighbors seated next to neighbors, at a giant table spanning the length of a football field down the main street of the Capitol City.  

“Once we had our idea, we were energized,” says Harris Vaughan. “Albert (Eckel, partner at Eckel & Vaughan) and I asked our whole team to get involved. They brought their creativity, strategic thinking, project management skills, and grit to help make Joyce’s vision of a feast in the middle of Fayetteville Street a reality.” 

Agency personnel called on friends, colleagues and connections across the county to help create and execute The Sunday Supper. 

“From restaurants to church families, florists to farmers, corporations to individuals—the community came together for our neighbors,” says Willa Kane, planning committee member. “Ultimately we had 1,000 volunteers who gave their time and talents toward the event. And, what an event it was.” 

Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh was closed for the event on Nov. 13, 2016 and turned into a street of long community tables which served more than 1,000 people. The event brought together 55 corporate sponsors, three bands, a gospel choir, local breweries, more than 300 volunteers and raised $189,000 for N.C. Disaster Relief.