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New Ipswich Congregational Church community suppers return for fall

  • Donna Connors preps a table full of food for the New Ipswich Congregational Church's Monday night community supper. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/21/2022 1:36:47 PM

The scent of cooking lasagna fills the air in the basement of the New Ipswich Congregational Church as volunteers ready a long table with a hearty, home-cooked community meal – a longstanding tradition at the church that almost fell by the wayside after being put on pause due to COVID-19.

Donna Connors of New Ipswich moved to town with her husband in 2018, and one of the first connections they made was with a new church. Connors’ husband began volunteering at the church’s community suppers, then typically held on Wednesday nights.

When March of 2020 hit, and COVID-19 restrictions limited activities with large crowds, the suppers were put on pause, said Connors. But when those restrictions faded, the usual cooks for the dinner, who had been organizing the weekly event for many years, were ready to step down, at least to a less-intensive role, she explained.

Connors, not wanting to see the tradition ended permanently, especially in the wake of COVID-19 when many people were not getting out and interacting with each other, and having commercial kitchen experience, said she would step up.

“I believe it was God telling me to do it. He put it in my ear,” Connors said. “It’s getting people out and getting people together. Especially as it’s such hard times these days – food is expensive.”

The dinners restarted in February, on Mondays, and continued until June before being put on pause for the summer. But as of Sept. 12, they have returned. Connors is joined in the kitchen by fellow volunteers Wendy Grippardi, Margie Whitson and Val Kottle.

The dinners are hearty affairs. On Monday, the dinner included a lasagna, macaroni and cheese, salad and dessert. Offerings for future meals include dishes like chicken parmesan, tacos, spaghetti, beef stew, shepherd’s pie and soup and sandwiches.

“We make sure no one leaves hungry,” Connors said.

The dinner typically serves between 25 and 30 people each week, including many senior citizens, Connors said. There is no requirement to be a church member to attend the dinner, and many regulars don’t attend, but it is its own little community, with people often lingering after the meal to chat and for their children to play on the church playground.

Whitson said the weekly dinner is often a social time for those who attend.

“There are some people who don’t always get a home-cooked meal,” Whitson said. “This is a way they can get that.”

“I feel the older you get, the more community you need,” Connors said. “And for the young people, it’s good for them to come and see people of all sorts come together and get along.”

The New Ipswich Congregational Church holds its community supper every Monday evening, starting at 6 p.m. at the church, located at 156 Main St. There is no charge, and all are welcome.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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