Gratitude Dinner "Turns the Tables"
February 1, 2012
Recently, 5 adults and 23 smiling Exeter students decided to turn the tables – they cooked and served a 3-course, sit-down Gratitude Dinner for Dining Services staff. "We wanted to show our gratitude toward the dining hall staff who work throughout the entire school year to feed us," says Jordan '14, who helped serve the food. "It was a blast and the food was great."
"The event was fabulous!" says Bertha Cassatt, hostess at Elm Street Dining Hall. "The students did a great job and were so polite." Cassatt would like to see more events like this. "The most fun moment was talking to my co-workers and not being in a work environment," she adds.
Gratitude Dinner was the brainchild of Linda Safford, staff assistant at Phillips Church. She noticed that Dining Services staff is always on the go at PEA events – cooking food, serving or clearing. In addition to their duties in the dining halls – where they prepare meals for students, faculty and staff – and the Grill, they often work at smaller PEA functions during the day and in the evening. She turned to Principal Tom Hassan and said, "We've got to do something for Dining Services, where they are the guests." Hassan concurred and put Safford in touch with Pass it Forward, an Exeter Social Service Organization (ESSO) club whose objective is to "root compassion by not only teaching about empathy in action, but by acting in compassionate ways toward fellow community members and beyond," explains Richard '12, club head. "I was immediately in love with the idea of the Gratitude Dinner when I first caught wind," Richard says.
The dinner was served in the basement of Phillips Church, with 3 sittings to accommodate the work hours of the Dining Services staff, and to allow each person to invite a guest. "It was important to have the dinner outside dining halls, so that guests could truly relax," explains Safford. "It was apparent from the very beginning that everyone was talking and having a good time." Some brought spouses or significant others, others brought children or grandchildren. Staff from all areas of Dining Services attended: cooks, hosts, dishwashers, staff assistants, catering setup, Grill staff, food coordinators and managers.
Principal Hassan and his wife Maggie attended the dinner and chatted with guests for over an hour.
"We all appreciated having the tables turned. The food and service by all was excellent!" says Trish Taylor, Grill counterworker. "It was nice to meet our peers' other half. Some of us live quite far from Exeter, so this gave us the opportunity to go into town and get to know each other a little better after the dinner."
Stephanie Reichlin, salad coordinator at Wetherell Dining Hall, brought her 9-year-old grandson, Anthony. They both loved the evening. "I thought how precious it was for the students to wait and serve us. They did an awesome job! Everything was served as one would at a sit-down dinner. And the food was very good," says Reichlin. "Anthony was the life of our table. He said to the people at our table that he has thought of coming to the Academy."
The evening's chefs were: Safford and her husband, David; Maureen Robinson, ESSO program assistant; Cheryl Rotondo, Science Department laboratory technician; and Reverend Bob Thompson, school minister. They prepared a delicious menu: roast pork, baked chicken, vegetarian lasagna, buttered carrots, baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, bread, salad and brownie sundaes.
"The students did an excellent job serving everyone food and making us feel welcomed," says Craig Tenzar, Grill counterworker. "I think the most fun moment was seeing the students get a chance to sit down and eat after all the hard work and great service they provided for us." Tenzar enjoyed the opportunity to bring a guest. "The dinner gave my fiancee, Priscilla, who had never been to PEA before, a chance to meet some of my co-workers and a few of the students that I serve at the Grill on a regular basis."
"The dinner was tremendous," says Ward Ganger, director of Dining Services, who mingled happily throughout the evening. "The adults and students were so attentive to the needs of their guests. The food was scrumptious, the variety was impressive and the service was impeccable." Ganger heard a lot of positive feedback after the event. "All of the folks who attended were beaming about how much fun the evening was for them."
"The dinner went fantastically!" sums up Richard. Pass it Forward meets regularly to discuss projects. "We distribute free hot chocolate every Thursday during Department Meetings," explains Richard. "We're planning a photo project that consists of taking portraits of every member of this community (including students, staff and faculty) and of recording their stories, and displaying them on the Lamont Gallery wall in the beginning of spring term. We're helping out with the Thank-a-Donor Day that is going to be hosted soon by Alumni/ae and Parent Relations. And we commit ourselves to serving the community with indiscriminate kindness."
Interested in learning more?
Find out more about Exeter's Dining Services...
Learn more about Thank-a-Donor Day...
— Nicole Pellaton