Last Saturday’s evening meal at Park View Mennonite Church welcomed dozens of people to a plethora of international dishes and filled the room with laughter and conversation.
Taste of the World was a fundraiser for NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center (IRC). This dinner and presentation event, which has taken place every year for the past six years, is the largest fundraiser NewBridges holds.
The dinner featured many varieties of ethnic food contributed from local restaurants, as well as individual Harrisonburg residents.
“The group of organizers did an excellent job of talking to many community members and bringing in lots of great food,” said Alicia Horst, Executive Director of NewBridges.
The contributing restaurants included Taste of Thai, Xenia, Bowl of Good, Blue Nile, Beyond, Shank’s Bakery, and El Sol. The EMHS Foods Class contributed several dishes, as did Tina Glanzer, Christian Early, Mim Yoder, and many other individuals.
“I very much enjoyed the food,” said Junior Ruth Maust, who attended the event. “Even foods from Ethiopia, India, and Mexico tasted good together.”
Junior Suzanne Opel agreed. “Some foods I was familiar with, some were new, and some looked familiar but had a new twist, and all were delicious.”
With background music provided by Alex Caton, an old fashioned fiddler and singer/songwriter, the room was filled with sounds of Irish bluegrass music.
Along with a meal full of international influences, Taste of the World provided some background on the work of NewBridges. Horst introduced the NewBridges Board of Directors and several staff members. In addition, Dr. Keo Cavalcanti, professor of sociology at JMU, gave a historical perspective on the interactions between the British and the German immigrants to the U.S. in the 1700s.
“Probably what I enjoyed most about the presentations was drawing parallels between the situations faced by immigrants in the past and immigrants now,” said Maust.
NewBridges IRC began in 2000 to address the needs of a growing community of immigrants in Harrisonburg. Founded by several local Mennonite churches, the organization holds Anabaptist values and seeks to empower and advocate for Harrisonburg’s immigrants. Their vision is based on Micah 4:4: “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
Specifically, NewBridges provides a wide variety of services and resources, including tax and medical assistance, diversity workshops, documentation, and legal information.
“I knew a little bit about NewBridges before the event, but I didn’t really understand what kind of help they were giving or how much good they are doing in the community,” said Opel. “They’re doing a lot more than I realized to help immigrants navigate complicated processes like healthcare and taxes.”
“We hope that people enjoyed the evening [and] heard information about the work of NewBridges,” said Horst. “The goal of the event is to raise funds for the agency and to communicate with community folks about some of the work we are doing.”