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A Dinner at the Well

Outdoor feast aims to bridge the Olympia community

The downtown Olympia Artesian Commons Park will be the site for an outdoor feast March 21. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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Saturday's A Dinner at the Well offers dinner for two for $50.

The twist: If you buy a ticket, you get one meal and the other will go to someone living on the streets in Olympia.

And all of the diners in both groups, along with volunteers, will share the meal, eating in a heated tent at the Artesian Commons while listening to live music.

And, organizers hope, doing a lot of talking.

"We thought it was a good way to bring people together around a nice meal," said Renata Rollins, an event organizer who's on the board of Partners in Prevention Education.

The event is a fundraiser for PiPE's programming at the Artesian Commons Park, programs designed to give the people who gather there - most young and most without homes - something fun to do and to engage a variety of people.

The dinner, with two seatings, is one such program. It's also a chance to talk about how to keep the park, and downtown, safe and welcoming for all.

"For creative and effective solutions to come about we need people to talk to each other directly, and sitting together over a really nice meal is a great way to do that," said Jeff Thomas, another organizer.

And it's the organizers' intention that this will be a really nice meal - gourmet, in fact. Among the dishes that will be served Saturday are baked salmon prepared by Dillingers Cocktails & Kitchen, salad by Fish Tale Brew Pub and dolmades from the Gyro Spot. Also contributing to the meals are Abby's Cupcakes, Little General, Obsidian, Quality Burrito and Swing Wine Bar & Cafe.

Lela Cross, co-creator of Dillingers, organized the food. She said she wants to help the teens living on the streets downtown. "There's not really a place for the teenagers to go," she said. "Somehow we have to make a difference."

Besides a three-course meal, the event will offer live music. Greta Jane Pedersen and Andrew Dorsett of the Greta Jane Quartet will perform at the first seating, and Jemmy Joe will play classical guitar at the second.

And volunteers will encourage attendees to mix and mingle.

Thomas, who volunteers with the Interfaith Works Shelter, came up with the idea for the dinners, organized by PiPE and the shelter.

"There seems to be a lack of direct communication between a lot of the people who are using the park area on a regular basis, mostly street people, and people who are addressing city council and the members themselves," he said. "There seems to be a lot of fear around the well and even despair - just that it's this problem that's not going to be able to be resolved.

"This event is a platform for being able to talk about that and to bridge the divisions in Olympia."

And when they talk about what they want for the area around the Artesian Well and for downtown as a whole, people might find they aren't on opposite sides after all, said Brian Wilson, the city's downtown ambassador.

"When I have conversations with multiple different stakeholders downtown, it always becomes apparent, ‘Wow, everybody is sort of having the same conversation and feels the same way but perceives all these differences,' " Wilson said. "This is a great effort to open up the doors for this dialogue to occur."

A DINNER AT THE WELL, noon and 3 p.m., Saturday, March 21, Artesian Commons Park, Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street, Olympia, $50,

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