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Get your tickets for the Community Dinner

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

On March 2, nearly 600 people from Orange County are expected to gather for the 11th annual Community Dinner.

The event – which was started in 1998 as a celebration of Black History Month – draws county residents young and old, black and white and rich and poor.

“What we’re hoping to do is really to eradicate the lines in the sand that divide our community,” said Nerys Levy, one of the founders of the event and chair of the Community Dinner Committee. “It’s an inclusive event across the board.”

Levy started the event with the help of the Carrboro Branch Library, the Cultural Arts Group and Mildred Council.

Council – more commonly known as Mama Dip – has always prepared the main dishes for the event.

“Over the past few years, we’ve incorporated more main-dish cooks,” said Community Dinner Committee member Jackie Helvey.

This year, main courses will be provided by Mama Dip’s, Bon’s Home Cookin’, the Carolina Inn, Tandoor Indian and Bandidos.

Side dishes will feature the flavors of more than 20 local restaurants, churches and chefs, including Lantern, Jade Palace, Bonne Soiree, Margaret’s Cantina and Crawdaddy’s. All food is donated, and this year the dinner will feature food prepared using ingredients produced by local farmers.

“What [the founders] were trying to do is show the diversity in our community,” Helvey said. “The other idea was to maybe introduce people to food that they’d never tasted before.”

In addition, Levy said the committee tries to arrange a diverse group of performers for the dinner.

“We try to represent different ethnic groups. If they’re not on the stage, they’re on the table,” Levy said.

The community dinner also provides tickets for those who are unable to purchase them, using county funding and donations from businesses and individuals, Helvey said, in order to make the event as inclusive as possible.

“Nobody knows who paid for their ticket and who didn’t,” she said.

If there are leftovers, they will be donated to the Inter-Faith Council.

Helvey added that the committee encourages people to sit down at the dinner with people they don’t know.

“People get to come and meet people who they’ve never met before,” Levy said.

Over the years, the event has drawn attention from groups in other counties; this year, Durham will have its own community dinner.
“The dinner has been used as a model in different places,” Levy said.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $3 for kids and are on sale at the following locations: the Carrboro Branch Library at McDougle School, the Ink Spot, the Chapel Hill Museum Shop, the Chapel Hill News, Mama Dip’s Kitchen, the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, Market Street Books at Southern Village, Townsend, Bertram and Co., Bon’s Home Cookin’ and the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce.

Levy said she expects the tickets to sell out before the event, so those who want to go should get their tickets early.

To donate or to volunteer at the event, contact Levy at rilevy@mindspring.com. For more information, visit www.communitydinner.org.

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