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A dinner whose time has come

Organizers at Trinity United Church see Community Can Dine program as a good fit for Elmira

Friday marks the third Community Can Dine event in Elmira, three months since the program began at Trinity United Church. In that time, the volunteers who make it happen have been watching the community support unfold just the way they hoped it would.

Corrine Taylor and Melissa Hallock are two of six women who are spearheading the Community Can Dine project at Trinity United Church in Elmira. The third event took place August 9 and the ladies are seeing mingling and community togetherness strengthen.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Corrine Taylor and Melissa Hallock are two of six women who are spearheading the Community Can Dine project at Trinity United Church in Elmira. The third event took place August 9 and the ladies are seeing mingling and community togetherness strengthen. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Six local women and Trinity’s Rev. Dave Jagger came together to help people from all walks of life enjoy a hearty meal as a community, but the original idea for the program was a little bit different.

“We are part of a committee that’s called Social Concern and Outreach, so one of the things that we do is a lot of fundraising and social concern. Every month we are telling the church what Woolwich Community Services needs. We also do a lot of international [work]. We wanted a more local project … the Lunch Crunch was the beginning,” explained Corrine Taylor.

Committee member Melissa Hallock went to Christie Kelly of the WCS to inquire about a new local project.

“She told me about the Lunch Crunch program, but there was a need for a program for families, or singles or seniors for a hot meal program – that’s how it started,” said Hallock.

Originally the committee wanted to start a soup kitchen operation, but the project turned more inclusive since. During the first dinner volunteers saw 27 people from diverse backgrounds attend. That number increased to 37 in July. The organizers agree that a community event that includes but is not exclusive to people who may need a hot meal or even just some company is a far better fit for Elmira.

“We have a piano player that’s been coming in and entertaining. It’s just a fun night out. Everybody is friendly and chitchatting. It’s working out really well,” Taylor said.

Taylor, Hillock and committee member Jessica Shantz spearheaded the idea with Christie’s help. Since then they’ve had help from church members Leasa Donkersgoed, Christy Humphrey and Barb Taylor, as well as the wider community. They were delighted to see the diners stepping up to help out.

“One of the greatest things I’ve found so far, and I don’t know these people’s financial situations at all, but people who are coming to the dinner are offering to help as well. People are giving their time and giving donations of what they are able – that’s exactly what we wanted,” Hallock said.

Dinners, offered up the second Friday of each month, are tasty and simple. So far, the organizers have managed to breakeven on the costs through donations. The concern is that the group may not have a sustainable model in place to continue the dinners if other organizations don’t jump on board to host the event. So far members of the Elmira Girl Guides have offered to cook a dinner in the fall and a few local churches have offered their assistance. In the future the ladies hope to connect with a dozen local organizations or providers to host the monthly event on a rotating basis.

“That’s what we would really like to see. Each month a different group would be in charge of that night and come in and prepare the food, we would just have a rotating schedule for the whole year,” Taylor said.

Still, they agree they will keep running the event as long as possible. It’s worth it, considering the benefits:

“For me it’s the mingling of all the different people who don’t even know each other. The first night I was helping to serve food so I was standing at the table and I saw a couple come in, they go get their food and they were looking for somewhere to sit. There were lots of options for a table by themselves but they went over to this table with people that they didn’t know. They were introducing themselves. For me that’s been worth it,” Hallock said.

“When you get a lot of people come up for seconds and thirds you always feel like you’ve succeeded,” Taylor said.

For more information on how to volunteer or host a Community Can Dine dinner contact Woolwich Community Services at (519) 669-5139.

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