Potluck dinner serves up community spirit

yan Loew

Laura Mazur, Jeff Ingram and Dona Greene (left to right) sing as about 30 people eat at the Kent Community Dinner in The Venice Cafe Saturday night. The three are members of All Together Now, a newly formed grassroots organization which aims to better uni

Credit: Steve Schirra

Cindy Bissell came to The Venice Cafe Saturday evening to get a plate of lasagna, a slice of pumpkin bread and a sense of community.

Bissell was one of about 30 people who gathered in The Venice Cafe, 163 Franklin Ave., for the Kent Community Dinner, a once-traditional event resurrected by a group of community activists.

Newly formed grassroots organization All Together Now put on the event with hopes to contribute to city revitalization and renew relations between the community and Kent State.

“This is a grassroots expression of that and a chance to break bread with our neighbors,” said Laura Mazur, member of All Together Now.

The dinner was a tradition throughout the 1970s, Mazur said.

The whole city is invited to the potluck dinner, she said, and all food is provided by those who come.

With the Kent State Folk Festival taking place during the weekend, group member Dona Greene said it was a perfect time to revive the dinner.

“I’ve run into people who remember (the dinners),” she said. “There are some who have come in and said, ‘Oh, I can’t believe there’s going to be a community dinner.’

“It’s a way to come together with people they may haven’t seen in a long time.”

Bissell, a Kent resident, went to the dinners in the 1970s and came to Saturday’s event with her sons, Athen, 10, and Alder, 7. She said she’s excited the dinners are back and plans to keep coming.

“I’ve lived in Kent for a long time, and I remember the old community dinners,” Bissell said. “I participated back in the day.”

Kent resident Steve Balazs thinks having such community dinners is a great idea because they will contribute to connecting the city.

“Building community is pretty cool stuff,” he said. “With the Internet and everything else, I think we’re pretty disconnected.”

But people at the dinner were more than welcoming, said Laura Davis, Kent State associate provost. Aside from providing a chance to share good food with friends, Davis said she is optimistic the dinner will eventually help build community relations.

“I don’t think it will happen over one dinner,” she said, “but it will happen over time.”

Contact public affairs reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].