Rich Williams 
Member since Apr 28, 2013


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Re: “Soul Food Extravaganza Cancelled

I can no longer sit idly by after reading recent stories in both the Boise Weekly and the Idaho Statesman regarding the demise of Soul Food Extravaganza. Reading those two articles and Mike Hodge’s statements felt like a slap in the face. And the more I think about it, the more determined I become.
I had the privilege of being a part of Soul Food for twelve years, with ten of those years acting as Event Coordinator. I was blessed to have been surrounded by a group of committee members who shared my passion and love of creating something of value in our community; an event that not just provided family fun and entertainment, but also morphed into an event that concentrated on giving back to this community. Soul Food Extravaganza is an event that has enjoyed statewide and national attention and was on many residents radar as a must attend summer event.
Attendance was approximately 3,500 persons when I started in 1998. With the hard work from our committee members and financial support from community partners Hewlett-Packard, Wells Fargo Bank, Albertson’s, Key Bank, Food Services of America and many, many others, we increased attendance to over 12,000 each August. Twelve Thousand! I call that community support, Mr. Hodge.
Following those twelve years and suffering the difficult loss of my step-daughter, I had to step away from the event. I felt that I could no longer continue with the same passion and zeal that I had in the past and I believed that new blood was needed to help the event grow in the future.
I thought Mike Hodge was that person. As a businessman and owner of The Source Store, Mike had provided logistical support for years, offering discounts on event t-shirts and posters.
I’ve stayed close to the event since leaving “my baby” and became aware that the direction it was headed was rocky, at best. Through others involved in the event planning, I learned that the corporate relationships that were so important to the financial health of Soul Food had been neglected and/or damaged, equipment that was purchased and donated was lost through the non- payment of storage fees and through pure neglect. I can’t repudiate his claim that he spent ten thousand dollars each year he provided leadership, but I can tell you that in the history of the event prior to his involvement, there was never a shortfall in funding, no running over budget and no liabilities. The event was healthy, alive and doing pretty darn well.
Last July, I approached Mike and asked for the return of Soul Food Extravaganza and Capital Contribution Center, Inc., the 501 (c) 3 that I revived and used for event fundraising purposes. Initially, he agreed, stating he really didn’t care about the event any longer, that family circumstances were such that he wasn’t able to give it his best efforts. In September, following what I can only call a weak effort for last year’s event, he declined to return Capital Contribution Center, claiming that he had changed the name and intended to use it for other purposes. When reminded that he was given both and that it was a package deal, I was told that he would not return both. No mention was made that he was entertaining ending the event, but still, I left him feeling that if he couldn’t run it, no one would.
I’ve known for a while that he was canceling future events. His admin, Amanda Earl sent me a message on Facebook on March 18, 2013 with the SFE Dissolution Letter, dated March 12, attached, citing “Unless someone else is willing to “step up to the plate” with a major sponsorship, then I don’t see how we can run another Soul Food Extravaganza. In addition to the financial problems incurred by this event, we have also experienced problems with vendors, coordinators, and volunteers. Last year, coordinators ran over-budget, vendors didn’t pay their fees and many fees were waived for vendors and participants because of personal relationships. There were thousands of dollars in damages done to the park, resulting in even more expense and even less support for our elected charities.”
These comments scream lack of leadership and not a lack of community support. It’s your job as event coordinator to secure and maintain those corporate sponsorships. It’s your job to make sure that the event doesn’t run over budget. It’s your job to make sure that the vendors pay their fees. (My understanding is that there was ONE vendor who paid a partial fee.)

During my tenure with this unique event, there existed a feeling of personal responsibility to the sponsors, the community, and the local non-profits that were beneficiaries, to the Soul Food planning committee and to the legacy left by those who started the event and trusted us for its safekeeping. We felt it important to nurture and maintain those relationships and to honor that trust. As Event Coordinator, it was my responsibility to develop new relationships within our community and keep Soul Food Extravaganza alive. If something went wrong, it was my responsibility.
There aren’t many mistakes that I’ve made in life that have affected so many. The only option I have is to fix it.
To that end, I am attempting to put together a group of like-minded individuals to start anew; to bring Soul Food Extravaganza back to life. I can’t do it alone. There’s a new 501 (c) 3 needed, a board of directors to establish, a planning committee to develop and fences to mend.
I hope the City of Boise Parks and Rec Dept. become easier to work with, but, if not, we’ll move too. I hope and pray that those long term sponsors will return and new doors will open.
If you want to help, call me, email me, reach out on Facebook or stop me on the street. Or just stop by the next time you see us.
My hope is that Boise, Idaho hasn’t seen its last Soul Food Extravaganza. Look for us in 2014.
Sincerely,
Rich Williams, Boise, ID.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Rich Williams on 04/28/2013 at 7:19 PM

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