What does charity, chicken, and spending a rainy night sleeping on a roof in NYC have in common? This week I took up Chick fil A’s invitation to join their Grand Opening challenge in their newest location of Elmhurst, Queens. I have to admit, I went for the chicken, but I left with a lot more. I have a new appreciation for the sometimes controversial chain.
The first 100 people to show up and spend the night on the roof of the mall parking garage were to receive a card for 1 free meal per week for the next year. I am a seeker of deals, and this was too good to ignore. I figured it would mean a night in line – boring, but I could bring a good book. However, what I thought would be a line, turned quickly into an event.
We were welcomed with southern-style smiling faces that I have grown accustomed to see on my visits to the restaurants. By 5:30pm we knew that we were set in stone for chicken, so long as we stayed till the following morning. Then, to my delight, we were each handed a sturdy red beach chair to set up camp, which was ours to keep. I put up my tent along with a small village of others, and we had an outdoor “camping in NYC” experience that is perhaps the most unique I’ve partaken of.
We were surprised with a show by the Harlem Globetrotters. They were true to form, entertaining us with confetti buckets and fancy moves. At the end of the show, Chick fil A donated 5,000 meals to 2 local charities in NYC, while at the same time they handed out free dinner to all of the campers. I overheard the owner of this branch talking to his friend about how they tried to hire most of the employees from the local neighborhood and that they were excited to help the community.
One basketball game and lip sync competition later, we settled into our tents just in time for the impending rain. Employees handed out tents to those that had no shelter and everyone buckled down till morning.
Upon waking, 100 groggy New Yorker’s packed their soggy belongings and thought the fun was done. But Chick fil A taught us an important lesson. It is never too early to help others. They did something I’ve never seen before. They organized a grumpy bunch of New Yorker’s, and actually had them smiling before their first cup of coffee. Teams were formed in a race to pack the meals that had been donated to local charities. And by the end of the race people were high five-ing one another. After all, it is better to give than to receive right?
Ok, but I didn’t forget about the chicken. We all traipsed downstairs to the food court where a graduation type of ceremony was set for the conquering hero’s. At least that’s what it felt like as we moved through the line to shake hands with the owner and receive cuisine cards. As everyone clapped and congratulated their new friends, we felt like we accomplished more than one night camping, it felt like success.
Chick fil A makes for an experience. They gave out sleeping bags for the kids, tents for those that were wet, and made sure everyone was having a good time. Not to mention what they have already accomplished for their new neighborhood. I look forward not just to the free chicken, but also to see how they impact those around them here in Queens.