Way down under the face of the Old Whaling Church clock, on a rainy and blustery Monday evening, there is a glow from the first floor meeting room. The door opens, and a warm face greets passers-by, welcoming them in from the cold, offering sustenance and friendly companionship — a laugh, a smile, and the spirit of people coming together.
Welcome to a Community Supper.
Now in their 17th season, Edgartown Community Suppers are hosted each Monday night at 5 pm in the Baylies Room of the Old Whaling Church from October 25 through March 28. The meals are sponsored by United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard.
David Pinheiro, the aforementioned friendly face who greets both regulars and newcomers alike at the door, has helped with suppers for four years. He says that the 50 or so people present on a recent Monday night are mostly familiar, and that diners can count on seeing the same people from week to week, which creates an atmosphere of community.
For the past four seasons, Karen Rego, wife of Methodist Pastor Richard Rego, has run the show, organizing suppers and doing much of the cooking, with the help of a kitchen filled with volunteers.
Meals consist of hearty old standbys, such as the tuna casserole with green beans, squash, corn chowder, salad, rolls, of course dessert, offered the night of my visit. Diners certainly do not leave hungry, though on the off-chance there is still room in your stomach, a tray of donated bread and assorted fruits and vegetables sits near the coat racks, free for the taking on the way out the door.
Lorraine, Connie, Pat, and Lucy have been attending dinners for five years. The four live at Woodside Village in Oak Bluffs. The women have moved from various places to the Vineyard to retire or be closer to family and have found Community Suppers a valuable way to make friends and socialize on a weekly basis. “We miss it during the summer,” Lorraine says.
Helen Duarte, 91, of Vineyard Haven has lived at Havenside for 27 years. In the Forties, she and her husband worked for Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow. Quite the conversationalist, Helen loves the opportunity to get out on Monday nights. She often makes goodies for those who volunteer in the kitchen. I’m told they are delicious.
Several diners point out the variety of organizations on the Island that offer similar opportunities for a friendly chat over a plate of food, including the Anchors in Edgartown and the Tisbury Senior Center.
By 6:30, most of the diners have filed out, back onto the rainy streets, looking forward to next week when the bells in the old church tower ring out their welcome back to Edgartown, to a room filled with conversation, food, and community.