Friday, September 12, 2008

Dinner Table Brings Community Together

BOSTON--(Sept.12,2008) Families wait to enjoy dinner at the Boston Children’s Museum on the half size “Longest Table” moved inside from the pier after it started to rain. By 7 p.m. the once empty table is full, seating about 200.

By Margaret DeJesus (

When eight dinner bells rang out on Friday night, a diverse crowd of about 200 people dug into their food and enjoyed a meal together at the Boston Children’s Museum.

Bowls of blueberries, baskets of apples and rows of giant turkey sandwiches along with a variety of dishes brought by the guests completed the dinner party thrown by the museum to bring people together for a meal.

Boston’s Longest Dinner Table: A Giant Potluck for Boston was originally to take place along the museum’s waterfront boardwalk from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a range of outdoor activities for children. Once the rain started to come down, the staff remained optimistic and adapted quickly by moving the many chairs and tables inside the museum.

Although no records were broken as hoped, the goal of gathering people together from all walks of life to share a meal was achieved as families still attended and stragglers joined in on the fun from the museum.

“I like the concept of a bunch of people sitting down in the community to eat together with everyone contributing something,” said Steve Holt of East Boston who brought salad, quesadillas and brownies for dinner.

“People sitting down together at the dinner table to talk, you don’t really see that anymore,” he said. Holt and his wife Chrissy managed to convince two friends to come after forwarding an email out about the details of the event.

Megan Dickerson, manager of community programs and partnerships, came up with the idea and modeled it after a series of dinners hosted by another community outreach program she had worked with.

“Here we sit like frogs on a lily pad, frogs on a lily pad, waiting to be fed,” sang Dickerson during the event while standing atop a chair. The children and adults echoed the song in unison while clapping. She then struck the cowbells with a smile signaling the time for everyone to take a bite of food together.

Families were asked to bring their own meals to enjoy while sandwiches and fruits were donated by Boston Organics, Whole Foods and KidFresh.

Jamell Hankins, the co-event producer was pleased with the turnout even though the table was half of what it would have been had it not rained.

“Getting all these people to mingle and sit down together is amazing,” he said.

“Boston is really diverse and some neighborhoods seem to be divided up by race. This is great because it brings communities together,” said Mena Lam, one of the Teen Ambassadors who worked at the event.

The BNY Mellon CityACCESS Teen Ambassadors are fluent in various languages and work with the museum and volunteer in Boston communities like Washington Beach.

They spread the word about the dinner at six cultural festivals throughout Boston during the summer.

“This is the most successful indoor museum activity I’ve been too,” said Karl Geneus, a fourth year Teen Ambassador and freshman in Bunker Hill Community College.

“A place like this makes people more accepting of each other,” he said.

Face painting, games and a dance party in the outdoor tent were some of the activities also offered to families.

“This is the first time we’ve tried something like this. People seem pretty happy. Who knows? Maybe we’ll try it again,” said Ginny Zanger, the Vice President of the Children’s Museum.

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