Serve the City Lisbon creates ties that strengthen the community. Serve the City is then strengthened by those ties. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our relationships with our partner organizations. These relationships make possible things that Serve the City could never imagine, much less accomplish, on its own. But along with making our work possible, the energy, creativity and good will of our partners is a treasure that makes our work a delight!
The European Commission selected our project, Community Dinners, as a flagship project of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 and has provided a grant of nearly €27,000 that we are using to launch the Community Dinners project in hopes of making it sustainable long-term.
The Centro de Apoio ao Sem Abrigo (Support Center for the Homeless) or CASA (an acronym that spells “HOUSE” in Portuguese) provides technical support, counsel and volunteers for our Community Dinners project. Their enthusiastic support from inception of the project has been an enormous encouragement for us.
The Community Dinners project was largely inspired by the extraordinary work of Comunidade Vida e Paz (Community Life & Peace). For the Community Dinners project to be sustainable and for the dinners to be served weekly, as we hope they will be beginning in April of 2012, we must recruit 50 volunteer teams of 20 – 30 volunteers or roughly 1500 volunteers per year. That would be a much more daunting task if it weren’t for the example of Comunidade Vida e Paz, which mobilizes more than 12,000 volunteers each year to serve the homeless!
The Grupo Desportivo da Pena (Sports Club of Pena) and President Ricardo Alves, provides volunteers–including some of our youngest, most energetic–friendship, encouragement, and all the tables and chairs for our Community Dinners. If it were not for the faithful support of the GDP all our guests would be eating dinner off the ground!
The Junta de Freguesia de São José and President Vasco Morgado have been friends of the Community Dinners project from the beginning. The project nearly died at birth, but Vasco Morgado saved it!
A big part of the fun of working with Serve the City is all the interesting people we get to meet. No one has been more colorful or supportive than Pedro Jaime Vasconcelos, owner of the Restaurant at the Museum of Fado, since the moment we dropped in on him unannounced to ask if we could use his kitchen to prepare our Community Dinners. After 30 seconds of my stammering Portuguese sales pitch he was called away to attend to several of the other haf dozen things he’s always doing at once and as he rose from the table he said in English, “The answer is yes.” I hadn’t even gotten to the question. It turned out the answer was yes not only to that question but to a long list of others that have arisen with time.
Serve the City has no better friend than President Jorge Ferreira of the Junta de Freguesia da Madalena. It is he we have to thank for making available the places where our Community Dinners are served. First there was the Campo das Cebolas, beside the River Tejo, in front of the Casa dos Bicos, the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation, a perfect setting for a summer evening’s dinner with friends. But with November came the rain and President Ferreira found shelter for our dinners at the Volunteer Firefighter’s Station. He’s helped us overcome innumerable other challenges as well.
As generous as it is for the Grupo Desportivo da Pena to loan us the tables and chairs we need for our Community Dinners, our guests would still have to eat off the ground if it were not for our partnership with Hugo Antão and his company, Cael Rent-a-Car, which loans us the van we use to transport the furniture from the GDP to the dinner venue.
When the rain arrived in November making it impossible for us to serve our Community Dinners outdoors in the Campo das Cebolas, Commander __________ and the Volunteer Firefighters welcomed us into their fire station, which has been such a blessing we hope to continue serving Community Dinners there until spring.
Serve the City began in Brussels in 2005 as a project of Christian Associates. Christian Associates Portugal have served Community Dinners, provided volunteers and been supportive of Serve the City Lisboa at every turn.