Clarksville, TN – This year’s Golden Gala was an evening of mixed emotions, as more than 150 guests turned out for Manna Cafe’s annual dinner and auction, just six weeks after co-founder Kenny York passed away.
Syd Hedrick and his friends provided live music and the culinary team at Manna Cafe prepared an Italian-themed feast. The evening started off on a somber note as Vicki York took to the podium to talk about her late husband and Manna co-founder Kenny York.
“Something happened on my first night without Kenny,” Vicki York said. “And. it happened over and over again. He died on September 16 around 5:15 a.m. So that night, after a lot of people surrounded me, and believe me, everyone wanted to come. When that last person came home and I closed the door, I was finally alone for a while. I thought, uh-oh, you know, now what?
“I hadn’t been alone for a long time. People really rallied when Kenny got very, very sick. But what happened when I closed that door, and I was finally alone, there was like this wave of grief that started to rise. I could feel this wave of grief, but, at the same time, there was this other wave that I could feel. He came and swallowed up sorrow. It was gratitude. I just felt this wave of gratitude. And… all I could do was say, God, thank you, thank you, for those 14 years. They were phenomenal.
Vicki York’s comments accompanied a slideshow of Kenny on the big screen. After his moving speech, Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden was invited to the stage by emcee Ken Shipley. Golden also had tears in his eyes when talking about his longtime friend and the work he has done for the people of Clarksville.
Kim Molnar, Chief Operating Officer, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee was the guest speaker for the evening. She also congratulated Kenny and Vicki for the incredible job they have done over the past twelve years.
The evening ended when Sammy Stuard of F&M Bank took over as auctioneer and proceeded to raise thousands of dollars in art and other items that had been donated to the cause. He also mentioned that Joe and Cathi Maynard had generously agreed to match the first $10,000 raised during the auction.
“This is the second year we have called this event the Golden Gala, unfortunately this is our first time without Kenny,” said Ken Shipley, Board Member of Manna Cafe. “We are 12 – 1/2 year olds in Manna Cafe here in Clarksville. It started in May 2010 right after the flood.
“We have at least 150 people here tonight. Manna’s culinary team prepared all the food and it was delicious. We want to thank Syd Hedrick and his friends for being here with us. I think the auction went well. Martin Freeman’s chair cost $3,000 and some of the other items brought in big donations.
Shipley says Manna’s future looks bright. “We announced several new initiatives tonight. Kenny knew most of them, but some were considered after his illness took him away from day-to-day operations. We’re just trying to move forward, inspired by his example.
“He wouldn’t want us to miss a beat. Kenny’s impact on this community will continue for years to come, and we are proud to continue.