Community Dinners

The Community Dinner Program is one of the most important elements in our re-entry plan for our residents, where our volunteers and residents get to “break bread”.  Besides the excellent meal, there is good conversation between volunteers and our residents, which helps our residents to practice communication and social skills.  This time also provides an opportunity for residents to network for jobs and housing opportunities that volunteers may know about.  Dismas House/Covenant House staff members also participate in the dinners and help to facilitate a positive, fun experience for all.

Most importantly, the Community Dinner Program is an activity that encourages a dialogue of trust between members of the community and our residents.

Dismas House Residents Enjoying Their Meal

Emmanuel Presbyterian Volunteer Cooks – Greta, Tita, Orlando & Guests


What is the Community Dinner Program?

We ask that volunteers to prepare and bring with you a meal to share and “break bread” with our community… and of course for yourselves!

Meal Preparation:
Prepare the meal at home or purchase it.  Preparing a meal is easiest if you are part of a team, with each member being responsible for just one part of the meal rather than the entire meal.  Visit us on Pinterest for ideas!

Arrival and Set Up:
Meals begin at 6:00pm. If you arrive about 10 minutes early, you will have time to lay out the food and reheat anything that has gotten cold. There are stoves and microwaves available at the house. The tables will be set ahead of time by our residents… All you have to do is show up with the food!

The Gathering:
Just before the meal begins, we gather around the table and introduce ourselves by first name only. The introduction is followed by a blessing said by a resident or guest.

The Meal:
Following the blessing, residents and guests proceed to the serving table where they fill their plates. Returning to the dinner table, everyone digs in!

During the meal:
Think back to meals you have the best memories of. Beside the wonderful food, there was usually lots of good conversation. And just like any family, some people will be more talkative than others. So get to know the residents the best you can by first letting them know something about you (work experience, family, hobbies, etc.).

One thing we ask is that you respect each resident’s privacy by not inquiring about their criminal past or religion/spirituality. Some may initiate this conversation. If that happens, just let the conversation flow, but please do not probe or evangelize. The most important thing to remember is to be yourself! The meal usually lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. As the meal winds down, the residents will clear and wash any dishes.

Volunteer groups commit to cooking dinner at least one night a month at Dismas House (Men’s Program – 18 residents, 2 staff, plus yourselves) and/or Covenant House (Women’s Program – 6 residents, 2 staff, plus yourselves).  Volunteer dinners are Monday through Friday, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

If you would like to be a Dinner Volunteer, or just want more information, please contact Rachel at (505) 504-7161 or

Comments are closed.