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Dollar Dinners program serves fewer meals, expanded outside city


The Watertown Urban Mission’s eighth annual Dollar Dinners program served up a few thousand fewer meals than in years past, but organizers were particularly happy with the turnout at sites outside the city.

Development director Andrew G. Mangione said dinners served in Brownville and Chaumont for the first time attracted 90 to 110 people per dinner. Attendance at dinners in Watertown ranged from 60 to 400 people.

“Having the opportunity to extend these great events into surrounding communities is a goal we’ve reached,” Mr. Mangione said. “The hope for next year is to continue this outreach into the extended communities and promote the events to reach even more people.”

About 7,000 meals at 36 dinners were served during the program’s eighth season, which was a decline from the 8,800 served during the 2011-12 season and 9,700 served during the 2010-11 season. Mr. Mangione said the agency had hoped to reach upwards of 10,000 meals for the 2012-13 season, but many factors, including weather and limited promotion, could make a difference in attendance.

Each church or organization that hosts a dinner is reimbursed a maximum $450 from the mission. Mr. Mangione said many participating organizations put far more time, energy and money into their dinners, to help lower the cost for the mission. The whole 2012-13 season cost $9,000, but since the dinners raised $6,000, the mission had to cover only $3,000.

The program began in 2005 to offer people a way to cope with rising heating costs in the winter. If people cannot afford the $1 meal, they can obtain free Dollar Dinner coupons at various locations throughout the city and redeem them for the meal. Many attendees, however, go to meal sites and donate more than $1.

The 2012-13 season ran from Sept. 16 to April 10, and planning for the ninth season is underway. Any church or organization interested in being a part of the Dollar Dinner program can call Mr. Mangione at the agency, 782-8440.

“We would love to extend this north, south, east and west, and certainly as our member churches in each of these areas and other organizations see the success we had in Brownville and Chaumont, we hope this will grow,” he said.

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