‘For people who need a meal’

Community dinners held in Underhill and Jericho

By Phyl Newbeck
For The Essex Reporter

In Jericho and Underhill, community dinners are an ecumenical affair.  The United Church of Underhill hosts a full meal on the second Thursday of each month and Calvary Episcopal Church in Jericho is the site of bread and soup dinners on the last Thursday of each month. Both meals are from 5 to 7 p.m.  No donations are requested at either location but freewill offerings are gratefully accepted.

Calvary Episcopal started their bread and soup dinners in May of 2011.  “One of our parishioners thought it would be a good idea to have a free meal for those in need,” said Parish Administrator, Karen Floyd.  All the food is served by members of the congregation and between 30 and 45 people attend on a monthly basis.  One of the inspirations for the dinners passed away shortly after they began, but memorial donations as well as a grant from the Diocese allowed the group to make improvements to the kitchen to keep the event going.

Floyd puts up a sign-up sheet in advance of the dinners so parishioners can volunteer to cook, but often the same group of retired or semi-retired men and women sign up.  Six to eight different kinds of soups are cooked at home and brought to the church.  There is always a vegetarian option and guests can sample as many soups as they wish.  In the summer there is generally a cold soup in addition to the warm varieties.  Additionally, the church offers home-baked bread and some local specialty bread.  Sometimes a parishioner will bring desert, as well.  The food is served buffet-style, but table service is available for the mobility-impaired.  Floyd said that initially there were a number of people who were shy and didn’t want to eat at the church so they also offer the option of take-out containers.  “Our dinners are for people who need a meal,” she said “particularly at the end of the month.  We enjoy a lot of fellowship with people who aren’t part of our church, but we also do a lot of take-out.”

Freewill donations totaled over $4,700 in the first three years of the dinners. The group tries to keep their money local although they did provide a donation for Tropical Storm Irene relief.  They have also contributed to the Underhill Jericho Fire Department’s Fund, the Elijah Davis Scholarship Fund and Hunger Free Vermont, and they try to make quarterly donations to the local food shelf.

Marge Douglass, one of the coordinators of the United Church of Underhill dinners, said the idea was planted about five years ago when an interim minister described the community dinners held in Middlebury.  Five members of the congregation travelled there to attend the dinner and talk the planners.  They started serving dinners in September of 2011, planning their events for the second Thursday of each month to coincide with the date used by Calvary Episcopal. “Our goals were much the same,” Douglass said “except that we wanted to make a full meal.”  Roughly 35 people came to the first dinner but since then the church has served vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrees to 80 to 100 people on a monthly basis.

In addition to the sit-down meals, the United Church of Underhill offers some take-out food although their goal is to have people sit down with one another.  Douglass said the church averages less than ten take-outs per month and these are usually for those who are too sick to come in.  The meals have become as much about community as about food.  “We thought we’d like to provide a good healthy meal for people who needed one, as well as a place to get together,” Douglass said.  “Now, although we are providing some food for people who need a good meal, it’s probably more for people who need good company.  That’s the fun of it.”

The United Church of Underhill also tries to keep their donations within Chittenden County.  They bought snow tires for one single mother and pots and pans for another.  They’ve given away money for diapers and for relief to those affected by Tropical Storm Irene.  The group also used their funds to buy cooking tools for the church since that is where the meals are prepared.  A core group of seven women get together to plan the menu every month and then meet at the church at 2 p.m. to begin cooking, although some meals require more prep work.  The main course is served buffet style but afterwards organizers bring beverages, deserts, and special requests directly to the tables.  “It’s an effort to make it special,” Douglass said.  Leftover food is frozen and made into individual meals, which are passed out as needed.

Douglass noted that the dinners are not being held to raise money and they are also not a tool to bring more people into the church.  “It’s been incredible,” she said.  “I look around and see people I never knew before and who I’ve become friends with.”  The dinners have even attracted two couples from Canada and a newly married couple staying at the Sinclair Inn.  “We encourage people to stay as long as they want,” she said.  “Some people do.  There’s something a little contagious about this.”

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Vermont Youth Dancers present ‘Carry On…A Song Will Rise’

Vermont Youth Dancers perform Carry On. Pictured from left to right: Colleen Haupt of Jericho, Abigail Ruegsegger of Jericho, Addie Price of Jericho, Hunter Groff of Jericho, and Kaylie Groff of Jericho. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Vermont Youth Dancers perform Carry On. Pictured from left to right: Colleen Haupt of Jericho, Abigail Ruegsegger of Jericho, Addie Price of Jericho, Hunter Groff of Jericho, and Kaylie Groff of Jericho.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

The Vermont Youth Dancers will present “Carry On…A Song Will Rise” at Dibden Center for the Arts, Johnson State College, today, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m.

In “Carry On…A Song Will Rise,” the Vermont Youth Dancers combine popular music with contemporary dance, jazz, hip-hop, and ballet, to tell a modern day tale of rebellion, inspired by the novel Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Audiences will recognize their favorite music in the exciting journey of Joanne, a young woman who struggles on society’s fringes. “Carry On” uses drama, song lyrics, and expressive dance choreography, to tell Joanne’s story of finding her way in the world.

Vermont Youth Dancers is a community dance troupe, founded by Jericho resident Mia Groff to provide young Vermont dancers with opportunities to perform. The group started with five young dancers in 2006 and has grown to include 35 dancers, ages 7 to 18, from Jericho, Underhill, Fletcher, Williston, Huntington and Essex. VYD is a volunteer-led organization, devoted to supporting area students in dance and performing arts. Groff, and co-director Theresa Robinson, have produced several memorable VYD shows, including “Cinderella Unwritten”, “Forever Young”, “A Peter Pan Tale”, “Come With Me”, “Breatkthrough”, and “Young Forever”.

VYD gave three performances of “Carry On” at Mount Mansfield Union High School in June.

Vermont Youth Dancers Jackson Bisaccia, of Williston, and Saege Robinson of Underhill leap in the air. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Vermont Youth Dancers Jackson Bisaccia, of Williston, and Saege Robinson of Underhill leap in the air.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

“I am so proud to bring this production to the magnificent venue at Johnson State College. Our dancers are accustomed to performing on the local high school stage, so this is a terrific opportunity for us to perform at a higher level,” said Groff.

“Carry On” passes the directors’ batons from mothers to daughters.  Groff’s daughter, Kaylie Groff, and Theresa’s daughter, Saege Robinson have created and are directing this show, with their mothers along side of them throughout the production.  Inspired by their mothers, Kaylie and Saege started dancing at age 4.

“VYD gives all of us an opportunity to connect dance with story,” said Kaylie. “We do develop expressive choreography, but the cast really shines with our focus on characters. That’s what really hooks dancers and mesmerizes the audience. The performance is full of details that give depth and meaning to our stories.”

Saege agreed, “It’s amazing to see local kids work hard to deliver an outstanding show. We carefully choose songs with a message, so the lyrics help tell the story. In rehearsals, our dancers come to understand how Joanne feels to be an outcast, how the police and the rebels are not really enemies. Carry On will appeal to older kids, teens, and adults who understand the world is not black and white.”

Admission is $5. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Dibden box office 802-635-1476. More info at www.vermontyouthdancers.weebly.com and on Facebook.

Pictured front from left to right: Clarissa Davis of Jericho, Saege Robinson of Underhill, and Madeline Nickerson of Underhill Pictured back from left to right: Colleen Haupt of Jericho, and Abby Necrason of Jericho. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Pictured front from left to right: Clarissa Davis of Jericho, Saege Robinson of Underhill, and Madeline Nickerson of Underhill Pictured back from left to right: Colleen Haupt of Jericho, and Abby Necrason of Jericho.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED