West Ashley residents, business leaders and city officials will share a meal Saturday afternoon to raise money for an improved entrance to the West Ashley Bikeway from Wappoo Road.

The event also is designed to promote civic engagement in general, as revitalizing West Ashley remains a top city priority, organizers of The Longest Table West Ashley said. 

The Longest Table is a international initiative that brings people together around one table to share a meal and talk about their communities.

Similar events have taken place elsewhere around the country, including Howard County, Md., and Tallahassee, Fla. Saturday's event marks the first gathering of its kind in Charleston, according to West Ashley United executive director and event organizer Teresa Mellis Tidestrom.

"The premise of this is to bring a diverse community together to share ideas on how to make our community stronger and share a meal," Tidestrom said. "It's taking the community to a higher level, to education the public on the city, state, county and SCDOT processes, that way they can be come more involved with an informed voice."

Tidestrom said she hopes for "great ideas that we can take and actually put into action."

The Longest Table West Ashley event is scheduled for Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Citadel Mall. Tickets are $5 and available on eventbrite.com

Money raised from ticket sales will go toward beautifying the western entrance to the 2.5-mile-long West Ashley Bikeway, specifically where the path begins at Wappoo Road and Savannah Highway.

Lunch will be prepared by West Ashley High School culinary program students. Outslide In will provide childcare services. Owlbert from the Charleston County Public Library will attend, read to children and hand out books. 

Employees from the city's planning, neighborhood services and police departments will attend, including Police Chief Luther T. Reynolds, according to Mandi Herring of the Department of Planning, Preservation and Planning.

"It's about getting community leaders and neighborhoods engaged so they can be empowered to bring positive change to their community," Herring said. "It's not a complaint session. It's more uplifting."

The Longest Table in West Ashley also is designed to build upon the momentum from the new West Ashley Master Plan, which City Council approved last year.

West Ashley United, a nonprofit that started in 2016, is looking to make positive changes in West Ashley, the city's largest region, Tidestrom said. The bikeway entrance is the first tangible project it's tackling, but Tidestrom said the group also hosted a tree lighting and Q&A with Charleston City School District at the Citadel Mall, as well as a candidate forum last November. 

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5609. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

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