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COLUMN: Bridging the Gap: A community united

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Severo Avila

Severo Avila is Features Editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

On a day when it seemed like half of America was arguing about pro football players, much of the Rome community came together and had dinner on a bridge.

Backstory: I got a second-hand invite to a dinner that was being put on by One Community United. I must confess that before now I had never heard of that organization. But your old pal Severo ain't never passed up a free dinner and he wasn't about to start now.

Someone from the organization had dropped off three tickets for the Rome News-Tribune...not for me specifically, just for three employees. Not knowing what the event was about, I took one ticket because I love free food.

The event was on Sunday and before that I had called someone at One Community United and asked what the dress code was. She told me it was "casual." Now y'all know from previous columns that I hate dressing up and can't stand formal wear so when she said casual I was overjoyed.

Bounce to me (that's how my friend Brandy from Pine Log says "unbeknownst to me") she meant DINNER CASUAL. So, on Sunday evening I show up downtown in a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops and when I get to the dinner's location — the John Ross bridge (the footbridge between the Forum and the new hotel) — everyone is WAY more dressed up than I am.


I look like a homeless person and everyone looks like they're ready to eat at a nice restaurant.

So anyway, when I get there, there's more than 200 people on the pedestrian bridge. And the place looks beautiful. Tables span the entire bridge and they're decorated with beautiful flowers and place settings. There's even little hand-written place cards that have people's names on them (or the name of your organization or company).

The coolest part was that there was a sea of people covering the bridge — people of all different races and nationalities and political affiliations and religious denominations and from all sectors of our community.

I saw a ton of people I knew there. Just glancing around I saw prominent members of the community including Dave Roberson, Sundai Stevenson, Cheryl Huffman and Al Hodge.

I saw doctors, lawyers, fellow members of the clergy (I say that because I'm an online-ordained minister) and I saw a bunch of law enforcement officers in their uniforms including officer Chase Burnes of the Rome Police Department and Major Tom Ewing, Sgt. Shea Hovers, Capt. Carl Lively and Sgt. William Wacker of the Floyd County Police Department. Everyone was milling about, getting to know one another and finding their places at the table.

So, then we all get seated and learn why we're there. Turns out One Community United is an organization whose mission it is to enrich and improve the life of the people of Rome and Floyd County through education and outreach. They want to bring the community together by fostering relationships and fellowship.

It was a great feeling to be at a table with some complete strangers and everyone's having discussions about various topics and we're all just there to enjoy a meal together.

I was seated all the way on the side of the bridge nearest the new hotel. I looked down at the other end and the entire bridge was filled with people. It was great to see.

And then there was the food. The menu started off with hummus and pita from Jerusalem Grill, then local greens from Tucker Farms, then roasted beet pasta with a basil cream sauce from La Scala followed by roasted veggies from Harvest Moon and then a glazed chicken breast made by the One Community United Folks and dessert was banana pudding.

Everything was delicious but my hat's off to the chef at La Scala because whoever thought to put roasted beets in pasta was a genius. It was delectable.

So, there we are, more than 200 people from all walks of life, talking, laughing and sharing a meal together on a bridge (an appropriate metaphor if you think about it).

Kudos to the One Community United organization for putting this very special event together. I hope to be a part of it next year and I hope to see more of this unity in Rome and Floyd County all the time.

Our community might be a small one but we can set an example for the rest of the country.

Severo Avila is features editor for the Rome News-Tribune