Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jeff "Smitty" Smith Turns Fifty

Happy Birthday, Smitty!
(photo credit: WS Monthly)
Today is a very special day. Jeff "Smitty" Smith turns 50. There are a few key people in this community that promote Winston-Salem, the city and the people: Smitty is one of them and is a true community treasure.

There are many people in this city that have their own "Smitty" story. This is mine.

I learned about Smitty in the early 2000s, when I had recently moved back to Winston-Salem from Florida. I was looking for things to do around town and found Smitty's Notes online. Way before Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, e-mail was the way that I got my information. I signed up for the e-newsletter and quickly learned about all if the things that I should be doing around town. Smitty was my guide.

I officially met Smitty in 2005, when he was hosting one of his "Dinner with Eight Plus Smitty" dinners. The concept behind the dinners was that Smitty chose a guest speaker that had a local interest. Then people would sign up and attend a dinner where they would be placed at a table of eight, listen to the speaker, and then have dinner. Then, people go around the table and introduce themselves. Now while this may sound like your typical dinner after hours where people swap business cards and network for business purposes, it was completely different. The thing that the people at the table had in common was the interest in the speaker and his/her message about life, the community, and making a difference. The concept has been done several times, but rarely with the same outcome. Couples are intentionally seated at different tables so that there is an opportunity to meet more people, and initiate further conversation after returning home. I have met some wonderful people as a result of these "dinners" and have made some lifelong friends.

At one of these dinners, I was seated at a table with Deborah Sheets Chiarello and her husband, Mark, was seated with Sadie Caplan Cornelius. The speaker was Susan Ivey, President and CEO of Reynolds America at the time. During our conversation at the table, Deborah and I were talking about our love for Winston-Salem and how the city was changing for the better. A couple of weeks later, Deborah and Mark hosted a party at their home, where I met Sadie. Sadie had only lived in Winston-Salem for a couple of months, moving from Austin, TX where she went to college. During a conversation at the party, I was talking about a fun city scavenger hunt that I had just done in Atlanta and how it would be fun to do one in Winston-Salem. By the end of the night we were checking schedules and planning the first Scene in Winston-Salem Scavenger Hunt. Over the next five years, the Scavenger Hunt shared some of the best places in town with over 300 people and raised more than $20,000 for the Meade Willis Fund- a fund that helps bars, restaurants and art galleries get the startup money that they need to open in W-S.

All of that from ONE dinner.

I can't tell you how many people I have met, befriended, and worked with on events as a result of that dinner, and several other "Smitty Dinners."

I read the e-mail newsletter faithfully every other week and have planned my schedule accordingly. His Best of Winston-Salem is always a highlight as I learn about my new favorite places and people in the community that make our city a special place to live, work, learn, and play.

The effect that Smitty has had on my life is immeasurable. So many of my friends, experiences, and overall feeling about this community is attributed to Jeff Smith and I am sure that I am not alone. On this milestone birthday, I wish Jeff the happiest of birthdays and many more.

Smittyhead since 2003,

What's your Smitty story?

1 comment:

  1. Great post and you're spot-on about Smitty and his importance to this city.

    My own Smitty story is from 2005, just six months or so after I moved to W-S from DC with my family. I'd started a blog and one of my many relatives who read Smitty's Notes (my parents are from W-S so we have tons of family here) called me and almost screamed into the phone that I was famous because Smitty had mentioned my blog. I subscribed to the newsletter that day and have been a faithful reader ever since.

    I was only able to attend one of his dinners, but like you I met some great people there. I've also had the pleasure of meeting Smitty for coffee as well as running into him at various events around town. The man is always smiling and he lights up the day when I get to see him. He truly is a treasure.