By Emma Castleberry
PubCorps, a local nonprofit dedicated to connecting people through service opportunities, officially relaunched in May with their first volunteer event at The RailYard Black Mountain. Founded by entrepreneur John Richardson, PubCorps has been many years in the making.
More than a decade ago, Richardson, who owns three restaurants in Black Mountain including The RailYard, started taking his staff to Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville to volunteer a couple of times a year. After cooking and serving food at Haywood Street’s Welcome Table, the group would have a drink together and talk about the experience. “We started calling it PubCorps,” says Richardson. “That’s how this idea came about. PubCorps is about connecting people. It’s not as much about the volunteer work that we are doing as much as it is about the connection that happens when strangers work together for the greater good.”
Richardson initially founded PubCorps in 2019 and hosted one large and successful volunteer event before the pandemic made such events unsafe. While the hiatus was disappointing, it allowed Richardson to refine the nonprofit’s operations and establish The RailYard Black Mountain, a tap room, restaurant and gathering space that acts as the headquarters for PubCorps’ meal-packing events. At the relaunch event in May, 180 volunteers packed more than 61,500 shelf-stable meals to be distributed to families in need across WNC by MANNA FoodBank. “We would have been thrilled if 50 people had showed up,” says Richardson. “And 180 people showed up. We believe this is just one more example of why both our community specifically, and the larger world in general, needs PubCorps right now.”
Patty Savieo volunteered at the event with a group of 12 friends. “I had never heard of PubCorps,” she says, “but we learned their goal was 60,000 meals and we thought, ‘This is really big.’” Savieo says she was struck by the event’s efficiency and the fun environment at The RailYard. “It was a beautiful day to be outside,” she says. “They have this DJ, everybody is rocking and dancing. There is an assembly line: someone is scooping and weighing and stickering and boxing. It was so well organized. It was a big operation, but it went like clockwork.
Everybody had a role. Everybody knew what they were doing. I think that’s why they were able to put together so many packets.”
While the packaged meals are important, it is the post-service beverage and discussion that’s most central to PubCorps’ mission. “If you put two strangers together over a cup of coffee they might have one type of conversation,” says Richardson. “But if you put two strangers together working side by side on a project for the greater good of a community, and then give them a cup of coffee, or beer, or non-alcoholic beverage–they are going to have a very different type of conversation. Even if during that shared experience of giving back they never say a word to each other, something about working together builds bonds and connections that can’t be created in any other way. We need more of this in our world right now.”
PubCorps plans to host the “Sunday Brunch” meal-packing events every month at The RailYard Black Mountain, 141 Richardson Boulevard. Donate, register to volunteer and learn more at PubCorps.com.