Sunday, December 10, 2023

LEAD Williamsburg Class of 2023: Connecting Community One Table At A Time

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YORK-Blemished by an unpredictable economy, divisive politics, and a worldwide pandemic, events over the past few years have caused stress and isolation for many members of the community.

The LEAD Greater Williamsburg Class of 2023, dubbed the “Resilient Class,” has been working hard to fill a gap and unite the Greater Williamsburg community during a time when many people are looking to make connections. A ribbon cutting was held at 5pm Thursday, May 25, at Alewerks Brewing Company, in celebration of the brewery showcasing its very own Turquoise Table.

Sponsored by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce, LEAD Greater Williamsburg is a community immersion program that provides opportunities for recognized and emergent leaders to collaborate on issues of importance to the region. The Turquoise Table Movement was the signature project of this year’s LEAD class. Turquoise Tables are meant to serve as places of connection, where individuals and groups are encouraged to meet in person for conversations, events, and to form new relationships.

The idea behind the Turquoise Table initiative was originally brought to life by a woman named Kristin Snell. A resident of Austin, TX, Snell is credited with putting a picnic table in her front yard, painting it turquoise, and inviting neighbors, friends, and strangers to strike up a conversation at the Turquoise Table.

“We started with a commitment to build three turquoise tables in Greater Williamsburg and are now up to 17 with community members and businesses painting their own picnic tables with free gallons of paint donated by Sherwin Williams,” said Amy Ritchie, member of the LEAD Greater Williamsburg Class of 2023 and community affairs manager with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

“The LEAD Class strives to bring back a sense of ‘community’ in our community, to breakdown the barriers that set us apart, and to create new opportunities for personal interaction,” she said. “Everyone is welcome at the tables to meet neighbors and friends, to share information with colleagues, or to take a moment for reflection or study. The businesses hosting the tables are creating ways to bring people together and they’ve generated a very positive response in the community.”

The tables are built with EVOLVE poly lumber for low maintenance and durability and purchased with the assistance of sponsors. Each table displays a plaque with a QR code directing people to the group’s Present at the Table Facebook page, which provides a list of community resources and nonprofit organizations in the area.

“We all wanted to do something where we could help provide information to the community for things like food insecurity, housing, and we went from having a website, to landing on this idea that a woman in Texas had come up with about fifteen years ago,” said Ritchie. “Coming out of covid, we knew what the community needed was connecting with face-to-face conversations.”

Kenya Williams, a member of the LEAD Greater Williamsburg Class of 2023 and a local small business owner, formally thanked York County and Alewerks Brewing Company for joining LEAD’s Turquoise Table Movement.

“York County has sponsored the Turquoise Table on behalf of York County Alewerks, which is a pillar of our community, to make community connections,” said Williams. “Anyone else can join the movement by using an existing picnic table or by buying a new one and painting it turquoise, of course, and putting it in your yard or business and inviting people to come.”

Local Sherwin-Williams paint stores will provide a gallon of turquoise stain to the first 25 people who register with the LEAD Class of 2023 via email at

Chistina Mixon, taproom manager with Alewerks Brewing Company, said the Turquoise Table is a welcome addition to the establishment’s beer garden.

“We’ve been here in the community since 2006, so it really made sense for us to be a part of the movement,” said Mixon. “Many people have made a lot of connections over the years at Alewerks because we’ve been here for so long, it seemed natural to participate because we’re all about community.”

In addition to the Turquoise Table at Alewerks Brewing Company, other tables are located at the James City County Library, sponsored by James City County; The Virginia Beer Company, sponsored by the LEAD class 2023; and Yorktown Beach Picnic Area, sponsored by York County.

Additional Turquoise Tables are in the works to be displayed at Long and Foster Real Estate, Busch Gardens Administration Building, Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg, Axe Republic in New Town, Berkeley Middle School, Copper Fox Distillery, Frothy Moon Brewhouse, Pierces’ Pitt Bar-B-Que, Shoofly Dairy Bar, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, and other locations.

Alewerks Brewing Company is located at 189B Ewell Rd. in upper York County. For more information about LEAD Greater Williamsburg, visit its website.

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