Grace Church Cathedral Tea Room is marking a milestone. On October 21, it will present checks totaling $100,000 to 41 local non-profit organizations. And in doing so, it marks another milestone: Over the 28-year course of its Tea Room, Grace will have given away $1 million from the annual event’s earnings.
The Tea Room, along with the Church Mouse Boutique, was begun as a way for Grace to give to the wider community. From Day One, all proceeds have gone to support local charitable organizations. Even when the church was faced with raising money to cover extensive – and expensive — building needs caused by an earthquake in Virginia, all the Tea Room profits were given away.
Because of the Tea Room mission, and because of Grace Church Cathedral’s ministry of hospitality, hundreds of people from the congregation volunteer every year, and dozens more from organizations that have received Tea Room grants pitch in as well. That includes staff members of One80 Place, which will receive a grant again this year.
“The ongoing support from Grace helps us to provide between 160,000 and 180,000 meals every year. Our partnership with Grace is particularly important because the soup kitchen began at Grace,” One80 Place CEO Stacey Denaux said. That was in the early 1980s. It evolved into an important part of the shelter and support programs it offers for homeless people.
The first few years of the Tea Room had modest results. It was planned to coincide with the Spoleto Festival, which often used Grace for musical performances. On those days, the church might seat 50 people for lunch and consider it a big day.
This year, 4,208 lunches were either served or sold for takeout. Almost $40,000 worth of jewelry, art, silver, and furniture donated by Grace members and friends, were sold in the Mouse Boutique. Thirty-one paintings on exhibit were sold by local artists who donated a portion of the income to the Tea Room.
Mayor John Tecklenburg has played the piano and Lonnie Hamilton has played his saxophone during lunch. Former Mayor Joe Riley comes for lunch every year along with Spoleto patrons and the Hat Ladies. A federal judge, and Grace member, often seats guests. And youth in the parish, along with their friends, wake up early and spend most of the day bussing tables and serving drinks. Parishioners make mountains of fresh shrimp remoulade, squeeze a truck load of lemons for lemonade, bake biscuits, stir she crab soup, and prepare a wide array of desserts, each garnished with whipped cream and a blossom.
Grace Church Cathedral is an Episcopal community that strives to honor Jesus Christ’s Two Great Commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. The Tea Room is one way it commits to serving others, and in doing so it finds joy in being part of a community of the faithful.
Grace is grateful to the community organizations that exist to provide support to people of the Lowcountry. And the cathedral is grateful to be able to support those organizations.
Communications Director, Grace Church Cathedral
2018 Tea Room grant recipients
Alliance for Full Acceptance
ARK of South Carolina
Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Aviation Conservation Center
Be A Mentor
Bishop Gadsden Residents Assistance Fund
Center for Women
Charleston Area Senior Citizens
Charleston Habitat for Humanity
Charleston Legal Access
Charleston Orphan House, Inc.
Charleston Port and Seafarers Society
Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy
Communities in Schools
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church Community Outreach Center
Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center
East Cooper Community Outreach
East Cooper Meals on Wheels
Fresh Start Visions
Hibben Cold Weather Shelter
James Island Outreach
Lowcountry Food Bank
Lowcountry Orphan Relief
National Alliance on Mental Illness/Charleston
One 80 Place
Palmetto Project, Inc.
Reading Partners Charleston
Rein and Shine
Respite Care Charleston
Senior Ride Charleston
Shifa Free Clinic
Star Gospel Mission
Teachers Supply Closet
Turning Leaf Project
WINGS for Kids
Youth Empowerment Services