University Center Club at FSU brings early Thanksgiving to local shelter, police


Members of the University Center at FSU staff deliver meals planned for last Saturday’s FSU-Clemson game to City Walk Urban Mission. (Photo: Special to the Democrat)

Saturday’s sudden postponement of the Florida State-Clemson gridiron clash was a bummer for fans. But, thanks to those behind the scenes, it turned into an early Thanksgiving for a local shelter and the FSU Police Department.

As it turns out, the staff at University Center Club at FSU, located inside Doak Campbell Stadium, got the news about an hour before opening for guests on Saturday that the game had been canceled.

Just as the Seminoles were prepped for the game, so was the culinary staff at the University Center Club.

They asked: Now what?

“Our group handles the culinary and catering services for all of the premium hospitality levels at the stadium. We were preparing food for nearly 3,000 people,” said Tracy Marple, regional manager of University Center Club, in an email. “When we received news that the game was going to be postponed, the process of food preparation had already begun, and it was too late to turn back.”

Managers got together and, with approval of the Seminole Boosters, a quick plan was cooked up. The 200 meals that were being prepared for club members and guests would be donated to City Walk Urban Mission and to the FSU Police Department.

“It was a total team effort from the moment we identified where the food would be delivered to closing down the facility,” Marple said.

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City Walk Urban Mission works with the homeless and ex-offenders, providing basic human needs and transitional and supportive housing focused on re-entry. City Walk’s transitional housing serves those who have struggled with substance abuse, chronic homelessness or both.

The act of kindness went beyond a good meal.

“As fate would have it, we opened our church to a shelter on Friday, Nov. 20, with hundreds of people who are waiting and in need of emergency shelter due to the pandemic,” said Renee Miller, executive director of City Walk Urban Mission. “We opened on Friday and to have this food available on Saturday, the day after we opened, was truly a blessing.”

The food, she said, not only uplifted the people in the shelter, but also the men who are currently living at the mission as they transition from prison to civilian life, Miller said.

“While the food was incredibly important to the people who received these meals, the idea that they were receiving food from a place like the University Center Club, and the FSU game, made them feel connected to the community and valued,” Miller said. “That feeling of being connected was worth just as much as the meal itself.”

Building relationships and enriching lives is part of the culture at ClubCorp, which manages the University Center Club, ClubCorp CEO David Pillsbury said.

“In this instance, the existing relationships between our leadership and staff at the University Center Club at FSU, the local organization at City Walk Mission and with the brave men and women at the FSU Police Department, enabled the team to act quickly and provide immediate impact to the greater Tallahassee area out of what could have been a very wasteful situation,” Pillsbury said.

Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at [email protected] or on Twitter @byrondobson.

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