A number of businesses and clubs in Thomasville are familiar the work of Neil Younts.
Over the last four years, Younts has become synonymous with the Thomasville Woman's Club as the man behind its famed food selections. Each week, the owner of Carolina Cuisine Catering prepares a Sunday lunch buffet that serves as many as 200 people.
He has also provided a hand in many of the fundraisers to keep the doors open on one of the Chair City's most recognizable structures.
Younts started working in the kitchen at the Woman's Club when he was 17 years old and has worked as a cook in some capacity most of his life. He briefly broke with the culinary industry to pursue work in construction, but returned at the behest of Judy Smith, chairperson of the Woman's Club Board of Trustees, and a number of others.
"In 2009, the ladies came to me and asked if I wanted to start my own catering business," Younts said. "I've been working here on and off since I was 17, so I've seen it go through a lot. It was built in 1937, so it's just going through tough times, falling apart. We're trying to keep it fixed up so we can keep throwing parties."
In addition to supplying cuisine for the weekly Sunday lunch buffet, Younts serves a number of the city's civic clubs, including the Thomasville Lions Club, Thomasville Rotary Club and Thomasville Civitans Club. He hopes to expand his clientele to include more community civic groups interested in utilizing his services.
Instrumental in Younts' career were his parents, Jeff and Frankie Younts, also of Thomasville. His father introduced him to Troy Robertson, who once stood as the man behind the Woman's Club kitchen. Elizabeth Younts, Neal's wife, helps him in his business and keep san eye on the Woman's Club. The couple has the good fortune of living close by.
Neal Younts says he learned almost everything he knows from observation and practice in the kitchen. Without a formal culinary education, he has turned heads throughout the city.
"I just learned from experience, working here all those years," Younts said. "The school thing really isn't for me."
Smith considers Neal an invaluable part of what the Woman's Club offers and hopes the partnership continues to be mutually beneficial and that Thomasville can retain him for the foreseeable future.
Younts will cater a fundraiser at Thomasville Woman's Club, to be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 17. The fundraiser will help purchase additional sneeze guards — plexiglass pieces that cover the buffet — as required by the Davidson County Health Department. Designed to keep airborne contaminants out of the food, the additiional guards are expected to cost approximately $2,300.
"A Splash of Color" fashion show and luncheon will include a bake sale, vintage costume jewelry and purses.
Smith, who chairs the maintenance of the Woman's Club, hopes the fundraiser will cover most, if not all, of the cost to purchase the sneeze guards.
"It's for the public's protection," Smith said. "At the same time, it's an added expenditure. We just had the flat roofs on the addition replaced for over $10,000. I'm hoping this fundraiser may bring in some more civic groups to help.
"It's a focal point of the community and has been for years. Graduation parties, showers, luncheons, a lot of these anniversary parties, class reunions...a lot of people make use of this building."
A card party begins at 9:30 a.m. The event is open to everyone and the cost is $20 per person. For more information, call Judy Smith at 475-6597.
Thomasville Woman's Club is located at 15 Elliott Drive.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.