A Royal Affair: Celebrating Community, Fighting Hunger and Dancing the Night Away

Verlecia Kelley and Kenneth Johnson with their donation to GLFB.

For Verlecia Kelley and her husband Kenneth Johnson, celebrating community and fighting hunger go hand in hand. What started as an end-of-summer gathering with friends and neighbors has turned into a huge food and fund drive complete with art, music and dancing.

“As I was planning [in 2022], I was coming up the basement steps, and a thought popped into my head: ‘Turn this into a fundraiser,’” Kelley said. “Because I believe we can get together, socialize, eat, network, party ― but we can also give back to our community.”

Kelley and Johnson are both long-time volunteers at Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) through their respective memberships in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. Through volunteering, they met lots of other volunteers and GLFB employees who inspired them to start the food drive.

Volunteers at the event’s donation table.

“America has plenty of food ― nothing should go to waste,” Kelley said.

Because of the success of the gathering in 2022, Kelley decided to try and triple their efforts at the 2023 event and make it a competition between “Kings” and “Queens.”

“I sent the call out, had the yard prepared, and said it was a go,” Kelley said. “ We had people bring food to donate, but also had QR codes to scan and donate directly to the food bank. And it just snowballed from there.”

As for the future of the fundraiser, Kelley hopes it only continues to grow.

Guests dancing at fundraiser, led by David Nordé from Rock the Block studio.

“This year, I’m going to organize a committee, because I’ve been doing this with just myself and my husband,” Kelley said. “And we’ll see what we can develop. I want to make it real unique and fun each year.”

In 2023, the event was complete with a pop-up art gallery, spoken word poetry performances, a one-woman act of Harriet Tubman, and Tiffany and David Nordé from Rock the Block studio putting on a dance party. The event raised $1,500, providing 4,500 meals for neighbors in our community.

“Both of us came from families who always gave back to the community,” Kelley said. “I feel like I just have to do something to give back to my community. This is just one way that I do that ― having a fundraiser for the Greater Lansing Food Bank. Because everybody needs to eat.”