LUMBERTON — Everyone left the Bill Sapp Recreation Center on Monday with a good taste in their mouth.
The 16th annual Taste of Robeson, a fundraiser for the Robeson County Church and Community Center, was by every measure a success. It raised more money than it has in recent years, and about 1,000 people enjoyed a smorgasbord of food from restaurants across Robeson County.
“It has been fantastic,” said Darlene Jacobs, executive director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center, which provides a range of services for needy people in the county. “Folks have really enjoyed themselves.”
During the event, which ran from 5 until 8 p.m. inside the recreation center, the nonprofit raised more than $8,000 to help supply food, clothing and money for rent, utilities and medicine to the needy.
Guests were treated to a wide range of offerings from about 20 restaurants. Some of the restaurants that donated staff and food included locally owned establishments such as Candy Sue’s, Village Station, Heavenly Cupcakes, Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ, Adelio’s, and Big Daddy’s Catering. National chain restaurants such as Papa John’s, Domino’s, Chick-fil-A, Bojangles and IHOP were also on hand.
The all-you-can-eat cost was $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
“We became involved with the event about three years ago,” said Kevin Farrington, a manager at Village Station Restaurant in Lumberton. “We want to give back to the community every year and we think this is the way to do it.”
Farrington added that the table spread of Hawaiian chicken, homemade chicken salad and barbecue ribs his staff had brought from Village Station proved so popular that he had to send word back to the restaurant to prepare a second batch.
“They call us each year, and I always help out because it’s for a good cause,” said Eric Locklear, owner of Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ in Lumberton.
The food, according to those who enjoyed it, was as good as the cause.
“I loved the food and very much enjoyed being here; I took a little bite of everything,” Lenore Taylor said.
“It was great all the way through; I thought everybody who came out did a wonderful job,” said Dick Taylor, Lenore’s husband.
Patrons seemed satisfied, both with the quantity and quality of the food, but also the service.
“I thought this was a really good community collaboration and it provided a good representation of Robeson County cuisine,” Heather Sanderson said. “The portions were substantial and the lines moved quickly.”
In addition to all the restaurants that contributed food to the feast, several corporate sponsors played a part in putting Taste of Robeson together. One of the sponsors, Sandhills Office Systems, held a raffle for a fax machine.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about our business. We’re a 30-year-strong company and it’s amazing to me how some people didn’t know we existed,” said Roger Sikes, the company’s solutions specialist. “I think it’s great what the center did and I don’t think that anyone is going to be leaving here hungry.”
The total amount of money raised during this year’s event marked an increase from the $7,000 raised in 2013.
Jacobs cited the weather, which brought blue skies and comfortable 70-degree temperatures, as a factor in the event’s success.
“It was standing-room-only; we had to go out and get more tables and chairs,” she said.
In recent years, Taste of Robeson has taken place over the course of two evenings, but the center decided on a single night this year in order to make the event more manageable for some of the restaurants involved.
“Two days is a long time, so we wanted to be mindful of their schedules,” Jacobs said on Friday.