Silver Bay dinner helps unemployed miners, builds community
Smiles dominated the room Thursday during the first of three planned community dinners at the William Kelley Schools cafeteria in Silver Bay.
About 160 people made their way through the line in an orderly manner that would make any school administrator proud, but this was not the regular lunch crowd. One would never have guessed this town of 1,800 recently lost nearly 500 jobs.
The dinners, organized by the Bay Area Ministerial Association, are part of an effort to bring the community together and help those affected by the Northshore Mining shutdown in Silver Bay. The six churches that make up the organization wanted to help those community members by organizing an event where people didn’t feel the need to be a member of a certain church to attend.
"The suggestion was made to hold the community dinners open to not only to those from the mine, but those from the community — not only as a way to help out, but as a way to build community at a time such as this," Sychar Lutheran Church Pastor Stew Carlson said to the Silver Bay City Council in December. "We want to have these dinners outside the church setting and the thought behind that is we want to let people know that even if they aren't involved with a particular church at this time, they are more than welcome to attend these dinners."
The diners ranged in age from 5 to 85 and they all carried bright red school-lunch trays, the trademark of high school cafeterias. They sat down for beef stroganoff, pizza and salad — as well as community. Adults and older students from WKS chatted and shared laughs while smaller children chased each other around the cafeteria.
“It’s awesome,” Wally Crabtree said. “Having this in place really helps people cope and not feel all alone. If you were down in the Twin Cities, this wouldn’t happen. This is happening because people care about others in the community.”
The event was originally supposed to occur in the Silver Bay Reunion Hall, but was moved to WKS because of the availability of an industrial kitchen. Instead of cooking all the food off site and bringing it to the hall, the cooks were able to work in the cafeteria and create a more efficient serving line. Using the school also helped with the cost of putting on the dinner since they were able to use and wash the school trays instead of purchasing disposable paper plates and utensils. In addition, the Silver Bay Ruby’s Pantry provided some of the food for the dinner.
Carlson joked that there was no class in seminary teaching young pastors how to organize a community dinner during a mining crisis, so he and the other ministers in the area had a crash course in public dinners, permits and a host of other issues before the dinner got off the ground.
“I’m impressed that all the churches came together,” said Bay Area Vineyard Pastor Gerry Cheney. “Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans and the Vineyard all came together.”