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Volunteer Spotlight: Darby Dinners

In just two years, our bimonthly community meals, dubbed Darby Dinners, have grown into something quite magical.

Every other Tuesday, friends and neighbors congregate in the Darby Township Municipal Building to share a meal and laughs together. Lots of laughs.

The sounds of the dining hall are those of joy. And that’s why The Rev. Doris Rajagopal says the recurring feasts are more than a shared meal—“they’re an experience.”

Attend and you’ll see just what she means. What started as a group dinner for twenty some people has blossomed into a convivial occasion often catering upwards of 100 Darby residents. “You can never come to only one Dinner. After one visit, you’ll want to come back,” she said.

Each meal is prepared and served by a group of volunteers. What’s on the menu? Well, that depends on the time of year, approaching holidays, and other celebrations. Next week’s dinner, for example, is Cinco de Mayo-themed and sure to serve all the traditional fixings. (Think tacos, rice, beans, corn salad, and homemade Mexican wedding cookies.) And this summer, expect to find self-assigned chefs fighting over the outdoor grill’s spatula.

Darby Dinners have truly taken on a life of their own—resembling a family reunion more so than a program function. People of all ages are drawn to the gathering, and it’s not uncommon to find three generations of the same family at the table.

Early birds arrive at around 5:15pm to help set up, get a good seat, or catch up with their friends. At around 6:30pm, right before dinner is served, Rev. Rajagopal and Janice Davis, council president, bless the meal and make community announcements. Then, before everybody else grabs their platefuls, seniors and children needing assistance are invited to fill their plates first—just as they are for second helpings and dessert.

In just two years, and with much thanks to our volunteers, these meals have helped strengthen a community that is often viewed as troubled or in need. But that’s not how we see it.

“Serving these dinners is not an act of charity,” Rev. Rajagopal said. “It’s an act of love … an act of love that we are all creating together. That’s what ECS is all about.”