At The Family Dinner Project, we are passionate about bringing people together for shared meals. Families come in all shapes and sizes and can extend beyond our own households and kitchen tables, which is why we bring our Community Dinner program to locations across the country. Amazing things can happen when we expand our definition of “family” and sit down to dinner with friends, neighbors and new acquaintances!
Part of our “extended family” is the Red Bank YMCA team, which has been partnering with The Family Dinner Project to bring Community Dinners to its members, friends and neighbors for over two years. Their latest dinner was a truly inspired collaborative effort with the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen, and we wanted to share some of the highlights to recognize everyone involved for their contributions in spreading the word about the importance of family dinners.
We were excited to welcome families as they arrived! Attendees of our Community Dinner included families that were members of the Community YMCA and representatives from other YMCA’s. One family member noted that the Community Dinner seemed like “a fun way to meet people and to be together as a family.”
The event started off with families gathering at tables and making cards for the elderly. Some participants noted that “coloring cards for the elderly” was one of their most memorable moments from the evening. After making cards, we jumped in line for delicious food from the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen.
Once everyone got their food, we quickly settled into conversation on social responsibility with our family and friends. Each table had special cards from The Family Dinner Project that contained, in addition to games and recipes, conversation starters specifically around social responsibility. Questions included:
“If you could give one present to the whole world, what would it be and why?”
“What can you give or do for someone that doesn’t cost any money?”
“If you could start your own charity, who/what would it help?”
In a survey given at the end of the evening, participants noted that “defining ways to communicate” and learning to “have healthy, tasteful meals and sponsor good conversation” were big takeaways for them from the Community Dinner. One participant also said that one thing they learned from the Community Dinner was that having “sit-down dinners (for) one hour, without electronics, and talking about what’s going on in our community is a good approach.”
After our dinner, we made our way with our cards (and our grins!) to the Wesleyan Arms Senior Center. The folks at Wesleyan Arms Senior Center were excited to receive the cards that we made for their residents. One participant noted that from this Community Dinner they not only learned about “trying new foods and where they came from”, but also about “service to make others smile.”
We ended the night with delicious pound cake and a gift basket raffle at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen. One participant stated that after this dinner, they plan to “create more awareness with friends to enhance the many activities available for families.” Another participant remarked “I learned that it’s normal for meals to not be ’perfect’. We will try to have less focus on structure and more focus on being together.” It was great to celebrate social responsibility with our community!