studio (un)scripted: 5 questions with mcgavock edwards.

MCGAVOCK EDWARDS, Partner & SVP, Eckel & Vaughan (and my longtime mentor, friend, shoulder to lean on, and mother to my favorite chef, wife to the literal nicest man on the planet. can you tell the studio is a fan?)

The Studio is my happy place, where is yours?

Picture this: just before sunset, a remote NC island beach, bobbing in calm, salt water with a drink in my hand. I’m blessed to be from the NC coast. And while it’s a few hours away, it’s still my most happy place. It brings calm, inspiration and gratitude. Every. Single. Time.

You have been my manager, my mentor, my friend, my reference, my saving grace and so much more. That said, I know many others who can say the same about you. What is your secret?

When meeting someone new, I find one thing to connect on. Then I listen first to understand. Remain open and vulnerable, and give grace to others and myself equally.

I have watched you manage some very cool clients, activations, programs, campaigns and social media takeovers. Is there one in particular you would say you’re most proud of? Can you tell us about it?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing companies and even more amazing people over the years so it’s hard to choose just one. But, since you’re virtually twisting my arm, I’d have to say The Sunday Supper, because it’s the closest to my heart. I could talk for days on this, but here’s the skinny:

In 2016, Eastern North Carolina was ravaged by Hurricane Matthew. Early estimates suggested Hurricane Matthew delivered a $1.5 billion gut punch to eastern North Carolina, with more than 100,000 structures and countless farm operations impacted. This catastrophic flooding—layered on top of a polarizing election cycle, and a state divided by political controversy (HB2)— left many North Carolinians with two needs: a need to do something meaningful to support their neighbors, and a need to unite once again. A collective desire to help quickly grew into Tar Heel determination. The Sunday Supper was born. The Sunday Supper needed to provide disaster relief support and help reunite the community. After one call between our agency founder and another native North Carolinian, we decided to put all of our resources to use to partner on an event that would make a meaningful impact in both arenas.

Our research identified that the damage was more extensive than media had portrayed and that streams of relief funding were either held up by administrative procedures or earmarked for very specific use. We found a nonpartisan fund designed for disaster relief, engaged a third-party e-commerce partner who waived all fees, and partnered with the United Way, who agreed to administer the funds at no cost with tax exemptions to donors. The Sunday following Election Day was selected as the ideal time to unite North Carolinians around the cause. The event started with a grand vision of a 1,000-person communal table running through Raleigh’s center. Our communications efforts centered around paid, earned, owned, and shared media integration and leaned heavily on a simple message: “Our community is coming together to break bread, give thanks, and raise money to benefit our food-ravaged neighbors in eastern North Carolina.” To meet our objectives, leveraging influencers, community leaders, and personal networks was an essential strategy. Businesses, churches, and residents heeded the call to give their time, talent, and resources to help neighbors recover and rebuild. We engaged leaders of affected communities—this was about them, and the needs and stories of their communities.

On November 13—just 31 days after the initial call—under a 50-foot American flag hung from a city fire truck, more than 1,000 people joined hands in prayer around the largest communal dining table North Carolina had ever seen. Following one of the most divisive election cycles in modern history, attendees put differences aside to break bread to support their neighbors impacted by catastrophic, historic flooding. It was called a “day of restoration,” showcased a community’s generosity, and helped define a city. The Sunday Supper raised more than $189,000 for our neighbors to the east, brought together more than 300 volunteers, and fed more than 1,000 people.

Public support for The Sunday Supper grew after the event. Shortly after the original Sunday Supper in November 2016, other NC towns hosted their own Sunday Suppers to raise funds for Hurricane Matthew recovery. And, a few other communities took our initial idea, and with our help, launched their other events to help both with disaster recovery and community building. We launched a non-profit to assist those other communities and recently transitioned The Sunday Supper into Now Serving – a non-profit that connects restaurants, caterers, and commercial kitchens with community agencies to provide healthy meals to neighbors in need. In just the past year, we’ve helped provide more than 60,000 meals to those in our community who are hurting. Now Serving is a “Network of Nourishment” that allows us to do the meaningful work The Sunday Supper started, but doesn’t require us to wait for a natural disaster. Instead, we’re helping our neighbors every day.

If you haven’t figured out why it’s my favorite yet, it’s pretty simple. It combines all of my passions: Communication Strategy + Making Connections + North Carolina + Helping Others + Food.

STUDIO SHOUT OUT! The Sunday Supper earned a Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – cherry on top!

Not only are you super present in your professional life, you’re also so committed to organizations and groups like the PRSA, the non-profits that are important to you, your tennis club, your sons culinary talents, your husbands successes, your family, your friends — the list goes on. What keeps you going and keeping up?

Faith in God keeps me grounded. Tennis keeps me sane. Family keeps me filled.

If you could ask me one thing, what would it be?

How can I be a better mentor and friend to you?

You can find McGavok on Instagram here. Reach out to say hello, ask about how you can support Now Serving or recipes she may be willing to share from her culinary genius family.

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