Break-in and vandalism at St. Dunstan’s will not stop the Community Dinner program that has been feeding people every Tuesday for 10 years

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Fortunately, the damage did not extend to the basement which became a makeshift kitchen with cookers and lots of extension cords

Prior to the pandemic, St. Dunstan’s provided an indoor buffet style dinner with an emphasis on good tasting, nutritious and attractively displayed food. All were welcome to enjoy a free dinner made mostly from food gleaned from Shoreline grocery stores.

Instead of dumping unsold produce, grocery stores are allowed to give it to groups like St. Dunstans

Some weeks, as many as 200 people were served in the Parish Hall, all enjoying a good meal and the company of others. Weekly hot meals were also delivered to three city-sanctioned tent camps. When a national holiday fell on a Tuesday, the Community Dinner still went on with many memorable meals served on Christmas Eve and Christmas. 

St. Dunstan’s has kept the Community Dinner tradition going through many challenges and hardships this year. Despite a raft of issues, staff and volunteers remained steadfast in their commitment to keep feeding their neighbors every Tuesday:

In early March 2020, as COVID emerged, it was clear that indoor dining was no longer possible. Without missing a single week, church staff and volunteers pivoted from indoor meals to setting up large tables out front and filling them with hot entrees, salads, fruit and desserts, all packaged to go. 

A sink with soap and hot water was wheeled out, and guests were asked to social distance while waiting in line. Delivery to the tent camps continued. Free masks have been distributed by the thousands. 

St. Dunstan's has become used to working outside during the pandemic. The food is all packaged up and ready to go. People can eat at outdoor tables or take the food with them.

In July 2020, the beautiful 5’ bronze Celtic Cross was stolen from the roof of the church, (see previous article) and despite the disappointment, Tuesday dinners continued.   

Later in July 2020, someone broke in to the church office and caused extensive interior damage, requiring deep cleaning, and replacement of furniture and equipment. And Tuesday dinners continued.  

Last week, on March 18, 2020, a young man broke in by shattering the glass front doors of the church. The Shoreline Police and Fire Department were on the scene quickly and arrested the individual, but in the short amount of time he was indoors, he sprayed fire retardant all over the kitchen, the parish hall and sanctuary. 

Father Marshall points to the fire extinguisher spray on the piano cover. The organ was not covered and the dust would have been pulled into the instrument before someone was able to turn it off

Surfaces are coated with a substance which requires hazmat cleaning. As a result, staff and volunteers cannot safely enter the kitchen to prepare the Community Dinner.  Instead, the team  used a flotilla of crock pots to heat up a simple meal. St. Dunstan’s was able to cheerfully greet guests after quite a challenging week, and give them tasty chili and other treats.  

St. Dunstan’s Community Dinner is a fine example of what a church, a small group of volunteers, and our local grocers can do when they are committed to welcoming and feeding neighbors every week. 

Come rain or shine, pandemic or break-in, if it’s Tuesday, dinner is on!

Volunteers taking food to three tent camps

They cooked at noon and handed out food at 3:30pm. They also delivered dinner to three sanctioned tent camps!

For more information, see their website at sdchp.org or contact The Reverend David Marshall, at 206-334-0175. 

Father Marshall made a walk-through video of the church to document the damage. It can be viewed here

--Story and photos from St. Dunstan's



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