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Dollar Dinners program is back

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The Watertown Urban Mission’s annual Dollar Dinners program has returned with more sites and meals planned for its eighth season.

Director of Development Andrew G. Mangione said while the program kicked off Sept. 16 at the First United Methodist Church in Watertown, it continues Sunday at the Brownville United Methodist Church, the first Dollar Dinners location outside of the city since the program’s inception in 2005.

“The Brownville United Methodist Church last year did events at other churches in the City of Watertown, and this year they’re hosting at their church to extend it beyond Watertown,” Mr. Mangione said. “We’d love to have these dinners wherever people can get to them, and come together for a great meal.”

He said the mission would like to see more churches and organizations outside the city take on a Dollar Dinners meal, between now and the end of April, to help reach as many people throughout Jefferson County as possible.

The program began in 2005 to offer people a way to cope with rising heating costs in the winter. If individuals cannot afford the $1 meal, they may obtain free Dollar Dinner coupons at various locations throughout the city and redeem them for the meal. Many attendees, however, go to meal sites and donate more than $1.

Dollar Dinners are for anyone in the community who would like to have a warm meal and enjoy fellowship, Mr. Mangione said.

“The dollar dinners are an extension of programs at the Watertown Urban Mission,” he said. “The goal is to bring people together and raise awareness of the mission.”

He said the mission hopes to have more than 10,000 meals served this Dollar Dinners season, something achieved many times in past years. This season, there are 34 dinners planned, which are hosted by 14 churches and organizations.

Although the program’s main focus is not to raise funds for the mission, it did make about $1,000 for general mission programs during the 2011-12 season. Typically, the mission would have to put money into the program, as not enough funds had been collected for the agency to break even.

“I think it’s just grown,” Mr. Mangione said. “More people come and there’s people, organizations doing this that are giving their time and efforts to make it a success. The fact that these are now sustainable are an added benefit.”

Jumping on board as a new host group this year is LiFE Home-School Group, which will offer a dinner Nov. 7 and March 10 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. Another new host agency this year is the Watertown Family YMCA. Executive Director Peter W. Schmitt said the Y joining with the Watertown Urban mission for the program fits in well with the Y’s community partnership piece.

“It’s a part of a mandate we have to increase our level of social responsibility within our organization and members,” he said.

The Y will host one dinner at the North Side Improvement League on Jan. 23, where Mr. Schmitt said he hopes its members volunteer to serve dinners. Another dinner will be offered at the league on April 17.

Mr. Mangione said the mission is still accepting host agencies to offer a Dollar Dinner. If churches or organizations are interested, they may contact the mission at 782-8440.

Dollar Dinner coupons are available at the mission, 247 Factory St.

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