Northfield Shares a Dinner…for the Community by the Community

Editor’s note: this newspaper column, written by Northfield Shares Executive Director Mike Krance, originally appeared in the August 28, 2019, issue of the Northfield News. To view a photo gallery and event video, CLICK HERE.

Just a few days ago, many Northfield residents sat down to Sunday dinner. However, this wasn’t a typical Sunday dinner as they shared it with 1,000 friends and neighbors. Two rows of tables lining Division Street—all filled with people from different walks of life—is a sight none of us will ever forget. However, Northfield Shares a Dinner was more than just simply sharing a meal. It was also a chance to honor, celebrate and inspire Northfield as a community.

Northfield Shares was honored to be associated with such a special event as it incorporated all three elements of our mission: advancing philanthropy, inspiring volunteerism and promoting collaborative leadership. First I’d like to focus on how Northfield Shares a Dinner incorporated the latter two mission elements— thanks to an incredible group of volunteers collaborating to bring a community together.

There are so many people who made this event a reality. The Stets and Carlson families had envisioned a community meal for several years after learning about them successfully occurring in other communities as close as the Frogtown neighborhood in Saint Paul. Tri Chairs Nancy Carlson, Jill Metz and Jennifer Sawyer, along with Kristin Stets, took that vision and led a group of approximately 50 planning committee volunteers who worked on the project for approximately one year.

Our outreach and marketing committees’ efforts were vital to making this an inclusive event. Reaching out to the Hispanic community with neighborhood visits and translating marketing materials into Spanish—and having a Spanish translator at the event—ensured the dinner offered a welcoming atmosphere for everyone attending.

Every aspect of Northfield Shares a Dinner ran smoothly on Sunday because of the 200+ event day volunteers. Their smiles and aprons warmly greeted the droves of people who flooded Division Street. Several Northfield High School and St. Olaf College sports teams were involved throughout the day, but many of them were not highly visible as they arrived early to set tables and chairs, or afterward to tear down and pack those same tables and chairs in the rain.

Then, there was the fantastic food made possible through the combined efforts of local farmers, food providers, local colleges and local chefs. Scott Barvir and Craig Korvela arrived in the early morning hours to begin smoking the meats. Neuger Communications Group graciously allowed our cooks to set up shop in their newly refinished parking lot.

Our creativity committee coordinated all of the musicians, artists and dancers who brought a creative element to the event. Not everyone was fortunate enough to get one of the 1,000 seats for dinner, but the musicians and artists before the meal and the contra dance afterward enabled everyone to participate in the day’s festivities.

And as it relates to the philanthropy side of our mission, I cannot forget the 84 underwriters whose financial support was vital to the concept of a community meal. Their generosity ensured this would be a “free” event for anyone who wanted to attend.

Finally, thank you to everyone who joined us as dinner guests. Your enthusiasm for this community meal resulted in all 1,000 seats being reserved three weeks in advance and a waiting list of more than 200 people. Warm conversations between friends and neighbors made Northfield Shares a Dinner a Sunday meal we will never forget. We are confident that everyone went home having made at least one new friend.

This truly was an event for the community by the community, and everyone deserves a heartfelt thanks. While we hoped that all attendees would feel inspired, their response to this dinner truly inspired all of us as well.