A community rallies over dinner | SummitDaily.com

A community rallies over dinner

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Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily/Caitlin RowDiane Thaemert (back) and Pat Steiner, Republican Women volunteers, prepare food in the Elks kitchen for the free community dinner Tuesday.

SILVERTHORNE ” It’s tough to find a better example of community spirit than at the free community dinners taking place each week at the Elks Lodge.

The Summit County Rotary and the Summit County Elks joined forces earlier this year after recognizing a growing need to help people out during tough times. Now, community members are working hard to make the dinner an ongoing, regular event.

“Many people at the Tuesday dinners like to help out after they eat,” said Rotarian Don Parsons, adding that some people even ride the bus to help out. “It’s amazing. I hope we can keep it up. It takes money.”

With no lack of volunteers and grants sliding into place, Rotarian Deb Hage said she has high hopes to run the community dinner indefinitely.

“There are people here who are hungry,” Hage said. “This is needed.”

So, who’s attending this event? It’s not just the needy.

“It’s people who are having a tough go, or people who like the food,” said Al Wickert, a dinner co-chair. “Anyone who shows up gets a free meal.”

Tuesday’s dinner ” sponsored by the Republican Women ” served chili, baked potatoes, hot dogs and mac n’ cheese. Fruit, veggies, condiments and coffee were also provided. A variety of desserts were donated by Safeway, and Robinson Dairy provided milk. Almost 200 people attended.

“It’s certainly grown into something we didn’t expect, and that’s a good thing,” said Wendy Myers, a Republican Women volunteer and a Rotarian.

Dinners are currently funded by a grant the Summit County Rotary received through its district offices ” a grant that will expire June 30. The Elks Lodge provides the equipment and facilities. Gilchrist Catering and Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church also play a big funding role. And, according to Hage, she’s received numerous grants to keep the dinner going after the initial grant money runs out.

“We’re in very good shape for the first three months,” Hage said.

Hage said she’s recently received a $1,000 grant from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s service organization; Nancy and Bob Follett donated $600; and the Summit County Rotary donated $5,000 to continue the meal through 2010.

Lord of the Mountains also has committed to raise $5,000 ” the equivalent of one dinner per month through 2010, and Gilchrist Catering is donating a meal each month until 2010.

The community dinner has also been approved as a Food Bank of the Rockies site, allowing the Rotary to purchase food “at pennies on the dollar.”

The Town of Dillon will likely donate $1,200, pending budget-amendment approval at the June 16 town meeting.

“It’s to defray expenses of the Elks Lodge,” Hage said, adding that the Summit County Elks provide a huge amount for the community dinner ” pretty much everything but food and serving.

Additionally, tools and services are being donated to keep the dinner going.

The Summit County School District donated two convection ovens and two warming ovens from the old Silverthorne Elementary School slated for demolition this summer, Hage said.

Kelly Vowell of Vowell Plumbing is donating time to move the ovens from the school, and the Town of Silverthorne is sweetening the pot with labor and trucks to move the equipment.

“Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that amazing?” Hage said. “Our commitment is to continue to serve the meals through 2010. Then we’ll reassess the economic situation for residents of Summit County.”

The Rotary is always seeking restaurants, businesses and individuals willing to donate $400 for each Tuesday meal. Funding will also be sought from The Summit Foundation in the next grant cycle.

Volunteers are always welcome at the dinner ” 14 people are needed for serving each week. Volunteers should arrive at 4:45 p.m., and they help serve and clean up.

And a fundraiser ” Dollars for Dinners ” is set for Marcello’s in Dillon June 25.

“The support of the community is going to be what keeps this going,” Hage said. “It’s going to be close getting through the year, but we’ll make it.”

For more information, e-mail deborah@deborahhage.com.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

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