I hope you are all staying safe and well. As they say, this too will pass, and it will. Today I’m taking you back earlier in the year when warm hats and gloves were the fashion statement rather than masks. Socializing with 650-plus others was the scene rather than social distancing. Can you guess what event I am talking about? It is the popular oyster roast for Family Service of the Piedmont. Once again credit goes to Lin Amos for first coming up with this idea 26 years ago. Listen up, High Pointers, this is one event that Greensboro copied from us! Traditionally, the High Point Oyster Roast is known for its icy or rainy weather, but somehow this year the weather was just perfect.

This is one of High Point’s premier events, and this year it was held at the home of Dr. Lenny Peters. Peters has been a great supporter of Family Service of the Piedmont. He also supports other nonprofits in High Point through the Lenny Peters Foundation and is investing in the future of High Point through Peters Development LLC with new construction and renovation for his businesses, including the corporate office for Bethany Medical Center.

The Pearls of the Oyster Roast is the “opening” of the oyster! This reception is held for major sponsors and, unlike its counterpart, is an indoor event. Stephanie and Michael Beaver were gracious to host the “Pearls” in their beautiful home. Stephanie is chair (since June) of Family Service of High Point Foundation and also serves on the board of Family Service of the Piedmont. On a side note, her husband, Michael, makes great pork barbecue!

Speaking of barbecue, as you know COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in so many ways, but has also impacted non-profits tremendously. The Family Service of the Piedmont’s fun and delicious Jamestown Pig Pickin’ (I’ll miss seeing you, Big BBQ Joe, but sending you a virtual hug) had to be cancelled.

I asked my friend Jody Susong, Family Service’s chief advancement officer, about the pandemic, and she told me the impact is immense. Some of what she told me really opened my eyes.

We all realize (or I think we do) the economic effects that many families are experiencing, including lost income, rising food prices, and difficulty meeting mortgage or rent payments. But there is another important facet of this pandemic that Family Service of the Piedmont knows. There have been few people to report the welfare of children since most day cares and schools have been closed. In times like these, tensions in the homes are high, and that also increases the domestic violence, child abuse and substance abuse. Susong told me Family Service is seeing domestic violence cases from people who have never abused their partners before.

As Susong told me, “The pandemic is an abuser’s dream. Their family cannot leave the house. They have the pandemic backing them. Staying at home is the healthy thing to do.”

Meanwhile the agency is going to be faced with fewer resources and more need in the community after the pandemic. Susong added, “As the state continues to open, we are predicting an increased demand for mental health counseling and advocacy services.”

It’s great that events like the oyster roast are not only fun, but are fundraisers to help provide services to help these people. Now these fundraisers are gone, but the need is not. The happy news is the 2020 oyster roast raised $225,000!

Let’s go to the fun and the Pearls of the Oyster for the major sponsors. Wasn’t it nice of Stephanie and Michael Beaver to open their home to the sponsor reception? Hors d’oeuvres and “adult beverages” were enjoyed, as was conversation, before everyone ventured over to the oyster roast on the lawn of the Peters home.

As I mentioned, Lenny Peters Foundation was the presenting sponsor. Pinnacle Financial Partners were the Diamond (love those diamonds!) Sponsors. Pinnacle Financial Partners Rick Callicutt, chairman of the Carolinas and Virginia, stepped upon the stairway to tell the group (after getting their attention), “We are thrilled to be a premier (Diamond) sponsor again this year. This oyster roast is a big event for us. Our associates support this, our clients support this, so we want to support this!” He brought six of his Pinnacle Partners with him.

Elise Peters Carey stepped up to talk for her dad, Dr. Lenny Peters. She said, “He has been getting ready all week to host all 800 people. (It probably would have been 800 if it hadn’t been the beginnings of COVID19.) You all know him! We are honored and privileged to be a partner of Family Service, especially the High Point Oyster Roast. This is our fifth year sponsoring the oyster roast. We are so happy to be a supporter of Family Service. It’s great to be among friends tonight for this wonderful organization. High Point is so much better off because of the work of Family Service.”

Oops! I almost forgot to mention the hard work of the oyster roast chairs, Nicole Culler and Stephanie Goldman (saw you and Michael plus two at dinner the other night) aka Stephanie James of Allen & James Designs in the Sherrod House on Main Street. They did a great job. Also that hard-worker and consummate board member, Donna Cumby, who ended her reign as chair of the foundation in June. Also, a shout out to the host committee co-chairs, Heather Fielden and Elizabeth Fielden, and the sponsorship committee co-chairs, Catherine Martin (Tim Ilderton’s daughter) and Shannon Snipes (Nancy Ilderton’s daughter).

As we strolled over to the oyster roast there was talk of social distancing and talk of staying home, but mostly it was lots of fun, friendship, oysters (and other delicacies for non-oyster-eaters) and an evening to remember. Those days will come again.

In the meantime, stay safe! Stay healthy!