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OUR VIEW: Don’t blame Community Dinner

Earlier this week, Community Dinner president Jimmy Edwards told us that Thanksgiving and Christmas meals provided to those in need by Community Dinner, formerly Up All Night, will not be prepared this year due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

We were sad to hear about the dinners, which we cover every year, being canceled. The dinner has taken place for years, with volunteers cooking traditional holiday fare, serving plates on location and delivering meals. Meals are provided on site to anybody who needs them and delivered to home-bound and elderly residents.

The popular dinners occurred last year on both holidays at the old Cannon Street School, with hundreds of people fed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anyone who was in need could come in, no questions asked, and be fed by volunteers who had been hard at work cooking.

Edwards said the difficult decision to cancel was made by him. The events often draw 70 or 80 volunteers, he said. The problem of not knowing whether volunteers may have the virus led Edwards to cancel. Going into homes was also a concerning prospect.

While we lament the loss of the dinners, and so many other things, to the virus, we understand and respect Edwards’ decision.

Even if they only delivered meals, having 70-80 volunteers sharing a kitchen would make it difficult to socially distance.

Perhaps they could have had a smaller team, socially distanced and masked, cooking food. But that presents a different problem of too much work for too few people.

Then there’s actually feeding people.  Delivering meals to hundreds would be a massive logistical undertaking.

We were disappointed to see some people suggest that Edwards and his volunteers were being unsympathetic to those who spend the holidays alone. We know the decision was made to protect the beneficiaries of the dinner, many of whom are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

These volunteers are not the government. They are not responsible for feeding people who have been left behind or fallen on hard times. They do so out of the kindness of their own hearts, and many of them do so every single Thanksgiving and every single Christmas. Instead of seeing family, they spend their time cooking and helping others in need. We’re heartbroken that people in need of food and fellowship may come up short on both this holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you feel so inclined, consider cooking meals with your family or others who you are already in a bubble with. Bring a meal to the home-bound senior in your area or the homeless person you see on your jog. You can donate to a food bank or bring groceries to a struggling neighbor. Just don’t blame volunteers.