Turkey Misgivings at Woodward’s

Westbank, the developer of Woodward’s, partnered with local businesses to put on a Thanksgiving dinner for “500 members of the local community”. It was held today in the Woodward’s atrium between 4:30pm-6:30pm. In September, an email was sent to residents in Woodward’s asking for volunteers and I signed up.

I have negative things to say about the event.

As I was going downstairs for my shift, I bumped into someone in my building. He was just coming up and he was furious. He had no idea what the event was about and he was refused entry into the Woodward’s Atrium (he likes to go up the spiral staircase and take the elevator up from the second floor). They asked him to produce a ticket which he didn’t have. He explained to the people by the door that he lived in Woodward’s and only wanted to go home, but they still turned him away.

I was confused. Why would a resident of Woodward’s be refused entry into a public space in their own building?!

Well, it turned out that Westbank’s Thanksgiving dinner was by invite only. I thought it was an open event, that people could walk in off the street but I was wrong. S., a volunteer who works at London Drugs, was also surprised that it was an invite only event. He said the Portland Hotel Society was somehow connected to this event and thought maybe the invitations were handed out through them.

This is the main problem: S. and I volunteered our time believing it was an open event. In the end, our time served “members of the community” but we still don’t really know who that refers to.

Someone will point out that invites help insure food doesn’t run out. I say alright, do the meals by invite only, but public entry to the atrium should never be restricted. Future events need to be clear that it is an invite only event, and state who the “members of the local community” refers to because clearly that did not include residents of Woodward’s. It also excludes other Downtown Eastsiders who did not get invited.

I personally told a few people about the Woodward’s Thanksgiving dinner. One person works for a non-profit in Chinatown (I thought this counted as community membership). Thankfully none of them came or it would have been very embarrassing.

See this paper invite? Westbank organized this event but they do not appear on this invite. Who exactly is “Woodward’s”? That is a question you and I both must remember to ask. Let’s hope the W does not stand for Westbank.

Some questions to think about: Who operates the Woodward’s atrium? Is it alright for access to that space to be restricted for events? If so, what kind of events qualify?

I was excited to participate in a community event at Woodward’s; however, if I knew the details of this Thanksgiving dinner — that it was by invite only and that the atrium would be closed for this private function — I probably wouldn’t have volunteered. I felt mislead. But oh well. In the end, I did do my volunteer shift. Some people got to eat a free dinner so that part is a good thing.

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7 Responses to Turkey Misgivings at Woodward’s

  1. Rebecca October 11, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    That is misleading! It makes me mad to read about this too. At least the food didn’t go to waste and people got to eat.

  2. Derek October 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Good to hear your thoughts on this…I hadn’t heard from anyone else who was there yet.

    I feel bad because I directed someone to come to the event yesterday evening (I had heard about it online), and he was around Princess and Cordova…so he probably walked 10 blocks to get there, and would have been turned away.

    It sounds like this could be a great event if there was stronger communication up front, and if there was some way for people to get around the atrium – perhaps a walkway around the side? I can see the difficult position the organizers are in though, because if they open it up along one side they may be bombarded with requests for meals from truly hungry people who WEREN’T invited. But unless you want to finance thousands and thousands of meals, how do you do it without an invite? Perhaps a lineup?

  3. Frank October 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    I volunteered and it was good to see that less fortunate local residents were given an excellent turkey dinner prepared by the chefs at the Fairmont Hotel on real plates, silverware and nice table cloths.
    No food was wasted as many took home 2nd meals to eat the next day. No food was wasted.
    Kudos to Westbank, Fairmont Hotel, Nesters, London Drugs and the many volunteers that took the time away from their families to help make Thanksgiving more enjoyable for the less fortunate.

  4. Marie October 16, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    Frank, good for you for volunteering. However, your comment doesn’t address the blog post above and makes me wonder whether you even read it.

    Zoe was critical about the way the event was organized. Her post doesn’t say anything about wasting food, so your adamant, repeated assertion that “no food was wasted” seems rather irrelevant.

    Oh, and you come across as very condescending towards the local residents who came to the event – how lucky those less fortunate people must have felt eating off of real plates! (What do you think they normally use when they eat?)

  5. Kelly October 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I also volunteered at the event. One of the reasons that invitations are issued to community members is because there are multiple events in the neighborhood and it helps to ensure that the same people aren’t going to various dinners, allowing the food to be distributed more evenly. Once it became clear that there would be food left over, anyone was welcome to sit down. As for closing the atrium, I don’t think the communication was handled particularly well. With that said, it embarrasses me that one of my neighbors would be so put out that he had to walk to the other side of the building so that hundreds of people could have a lovely meal. It strikes me as petty. London Drugs and Nestors had lost sales, I’m sure, and they aren’t complaining. I’m not a fan of Westbank, but you have to choose your battles and I hardly think being redirected to the front door was an injustice.

  6. K October 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Someone has to use the front door! Who cares! So what if London Drugs loses money? You’re surprised that a place the court inside Woodward’s is being used for private functions?! Get real.

  7. Chris November 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    As a long time volunteer myself I have to say not bad for a first attempt, lets try and improve things next year… if they decide to repeat the event. My only concern would be that a “closed event” was held in conspicuously open venue, but even this i would have to delegate to the trite as pretty much from this point to January 15th there will be tens of thousands of free turkey dinners being given away to people of low or no income.

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