NEW YORK The National Conference on Volunteering and Service annually convenes thousands of leaders in the nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors to discuss new initiatives for civic engagement and public service. As the title sponsor of this year's gathering in New York, Target hosted an event of its own and put 4,000 conference attendees to work. On Tuesday night, the conference's second day, the retailer hosted the “Party for Good,” an ambitious service project with an assembly line where guests packed meal kits for the Food Bank for New York City.
With such a large group of people and the goal of creating 150,000 meals at a three-hour event, producer Cara Kleinhaut of Caravents, hired by Target's community relations department, scoured the city for an appropriate venue, finally turning up the empty warehouse space at Pier 36, the future home of Basketball City. The 65,000-square-foot site was as bare as it was expansive, so the production crew spent six full days installing all the necessary equipment and furnishings to fashion a compelling environment.
The result was a football field-size space laden with quirky touches that accentuated rather than hid the rough edges of the raw facility, alongside visual references to Target's bull's-eye logo and red-and-white color scheme. Where the end zones would be, Caravents set up activity stations for the assembly of meal kits, dressing the area with metal shelving and tables and using wooden pallets as decor for the walls. These components were repeated in the rest of the space, in the racks holding drinks behind the bars, in the tables beside couches in the central lounge and patio, and in the walls marking the buffet stations.
Amidst all this was a stage flanked by two enormous video screens playing footage of New York and public service organizations. It was from this platform that the night's M.C., Lara Spencer of entertainment news program The Insider, and Target's president of community relations, Laysha Ward, explained the event's concept and beneficiaries of the meals. To motivate the crowds to reach the 150,000 mark, every 25,000-meal milestone was announced in a big way, including an appearance by chef Rocco DiSpirito, a performance by American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee, and a flash mob of 100 catering staffers break-dancing and handing out cups of specially created Ben & Jerry's flavors, “Berry Voluntary” and “Brownie Chew Gooder.”
There was, of course, much more to eat than just ice cream. Caterer Great Performances had about 170 staff on hand to man buffet stations loaded with burgers, rolls, pasta, salad, grilled chicken breasts, and pork sausage. Helping to defray costs, Target's event partner Coca-Cola and its subsidiary Glacéau stocked the bars with soda, VitaminWater, and other beverages.
At the end of the night Target calculated that the guests had not only reached the goal of 150,000 meals but exceeded it by nearly 20,000.