Morgan Allen is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a recognition of women across the country who have made a significant impact. The annual program is a continuation of Women of the Century, a 2020 project that commemorated the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Meet this year’s honorees at womenoftheyear.usatoday.com.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people did not know what was to come of work, food and life, Morgan Allen pushed an initiative to help people in need.
Connect for Good GVL came about when Advoco, a software consulting company had to cancel its annual conference. They wanted to honor their catering contract with Table 301 so they purchased meals anyway and donated to the less fortunate. Carl Sobocinski, who founded local festival euphoria, approached Allen about working on the initiative.
“Literally within 30 seconds of him telling me about it I said yes. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into; I just knew that my team and I certainly had the resources to figure this out,” Allen said.
Allen was able to apply for the CARES Act funding in Greenville County and euphoria received nearly $1 million to take over management and execution of the project, and the nonprofit food, wine, and music festival was able to tap into its existing network of more than a dozen local restaurant partners to source and prepare the meals. Participating restaurants were compensated for food and labor costs, which helped generate consistent revenue streams and protected countless jobs within our local restaurant industry.
The initiative took on a life of its own and turned into a community project, with dozens of partners working together to provide more than 130,000 meals since the pandemic began.
“I had no idea the impact that it was going to have on our community,” Allen said.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is your definition of courage?
I think courage is digging deep and figuring out how you can face adversity. Always know that you can put your mind to something and do anything that you want to do no matter what obstacles you need to overcome. And also how you handle those situations can make you a better person in the long run.
How do you overcome adversity?
We all overcome adversity in different ways. For me, I’ve always been what I consider young in a lot of my positions that I’ve held over the years. So I think that’s something that I have really tried to put my best foot forward and learn and grow. You don’t know everything and you have to take in everything around you. It’s about taking from it and learning from it. It’s really what helps you grow not only as a person but as a leader.
What is your proudest moment?
Personally, it would definitely be my 4-year-old daughter. But professionally, oh gosh that’s a hard question; it’s hard to top my daughter. But I think probably just coming on-board with euphoria. We had just moved to Greenville, and getting a job that I loved doing and being able to help people its really just been amazing. I love every bit of my job.
Do you have anyone you look up to?
Growing up, my parents were certainly my role models. They really taught me a lot about hard work and giving back and I’ve always had those instilled in me. But as far as nowadays, I think I have so many wonderful people in my life that I look up to. I don’t think I have one particular person. I’m surrounded by so many great people who have different strengths.
The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, especially women. What has helped you?
One of my strengths has been having a positive attitude and positive outlook. I love being a role model not only for my 4-year-old but also my team, I have two young women that work for me and being a strong woman is incredibly important; to have a household, to be a full-time working mom with a busy career. I felt like a lot of people were just looking at me to get things done and how I was gonna handle myself. Of course, there are days that are hard, but I think just knowing that you are a role model and that people do look up to you, it’s what drove me to keep going and to stay positive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Probably just to not give up on myself. When you face adversity, whether it’s being a female, being young or in the hospitality industry, it’s a hard industry, dealing with the public and it’s hard work. There’s a lot times you want to give up on yourself or especially we were talking about when you don’t know what you want to do or where you want to go and you have a lot of questions. I was very fortunate to have people in my life who believed in and always made me feel like I should believe in myself.