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Out & About: Windsor Community Dinners an Opportunity for Sharing



Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, October 22, 2018

Windsor — Talk to your neighbors.

That’s the main message behind the weekly community dinners held at the American Legion in Windsor.

The dinners were started by a coalition of Windsor organizations during the Great Recession to provide a weekly hot and hearty meal for community members who needed assistance.

“It was when people were struggling more,” said Mary McNaughtan, who helps coordinate the nights when Old South Church hosts the meal and was busy slicing up watermelon when I arrived.

Since then, the dinners have morphed into a weekly social gathering at which people of all ages gather to catch up. Churches and other organizations, including St. Francis of Assisi, the Rotary Club, the Masonic Family and the Elks, to name a few, divide up the Wednesdays, with some taking one a month and others contributing when they can. The free meals take place during the school year at the American Legion Hall, with summers off. Dinner starts at 5 p.m., and the doors open at 4 p.m. for socializing. Recently, they’ve been putting out playing cards and inviting musicians to perform.

“Nobody talks to each other anymore,” McNaughtan said. “I think we have a lot of stories to share to get to know one another.”

I hear variations of this observation frequently at community gatherings. Some fault technology, others the current political climate. Some suggest that people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and simply don’t have the bandwidth for civic engagement. There’s also a general sense that, in a globalized world, people don’t feel the same connection to the towns they live in that their parents and grandparents do or did.

At any rate, it can be harder to bring people together, which is why dinners like the weekly one in Windsor are so necessary.

Last Wednesday was the Old South Church’s turn, which its members do on the third Wednesday of every month. They brought by dishes in slow cookers and on hot plates, and some stayed for the meal.

“We never run out of food,” McNaughtan said. In fact, they often have extra, which is why there are plenty of takeout containers available. “The food never goes to waste.”

A donation jar for the area food pantry is set out, but no one is required to contribute.

“It’s just great,” said the Rev. Karen Lipinczyk, bridge pastor at Old South Church. The intention is to simply bring people together.

And then it was time for me to decide where to sit. I’m sure everyone has experienced the slight fear that comes with looking around a room where you know no one and trying to figure out where you fit best. Despite years of practice, it is still something I struggle with.

I chose a spot across from Gael Wolfskill, who has been coming to the dinners since they began. How long ago was that? About 10 years, I inform her. “I was just a teenager then,” she quipped.

The meal was served buffet-style and we joined the waiting line, which included Beverly Pomeroy and her daughter, Colleen.

“I thought it would get the two of us out to meet other people,” Pomeroy said, and then, with a chuckle. “I don’t have to cook dinner.”

The meal that night included shepherd’s pie, pulled pork, salad, bread, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs — among many other dishes — and another whole table dedicated to dessert.

At our table, I talked with Pomeroy and Wolfskill about what they like best about the dinners, which they attend every week, and their town. It’s nice to see friends, they told me, and have dinner out one night a week. We talked about where we grew up and what brought us to the Upper Valley.

“It’s wonderful,” Wolfskill said of Windsor. She can see Mount Ascutney from her window, she said. “It’s just lovely.”

Soon we were talking about art and other activities. It was a reminder of how nice it is to talk with people for the sake of talking, without pretense or expectation.

At the end of the meal, Lipinczyk, Wolfskill and Pomeroy insisted that I take home something for dessert. I hesitated, but then accepted a slice of berry pie. (It was very good!) Sharing food is not just about feeding someone a good meal; it’s an extension of the community that exists in Windsor and elsewhere in the Upper Valley.

“It’s wonderful,” said Nancy Davis, a Windsor resident who attends the meals every week. “It’s what everyone should do. We should be out there for everyone. Don’t you think?”

I do.

Editor’s note: For more information on the weekly Windsor meals, call 802-674-5407 or visit https://www.facebook.com/windsorvtdinners. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.