DeSoto’s Dining and Dialogue Returns in 2024: A Community-Building Initiative Aiming to Restore Neighborly Connections

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desoto dining and dialogue flyer

DESOTO – It is no secret that COVID-19 took away people’s ways of engaging with their neighbors and friends.

One of those takeaways was the City of DeSoto’s Dining and Dialogue event, which began in 2003.

To that end, the once-popular DeSoto event will be back in 2024. The city is hoping this free dinner event, open to anyone who lives or works in DeSoto and would like to meet their neighbors to encourage “a great place to live, work and play,” will also encourage people to get out once again and get to know those in their city.

Dining and Dialogue, according to DeSoto Community Relations Manager Kathy Jones, is “A volunteer 501 (c) program that began in 2003 and was one of the major community programs that qualified the City of DeSoto to apply for the All American City award in 2006 and we think it is the reason we won the award.  We feel that the DeSoto Dining and Dialogue program has contributed to the hometown feel that DeSoto continues to have even though our population has significantly increased. It promotes a sense of community.”

DeSoto Dining & Dialogue was inspired by Michael Hurtt, who was the DeSoto Mayor in 2003, and Councilmember Thelma Clardy, who saw our demographics changing significantly with many new African American families moving to DeSoto.

Jones said, “They introduced the program as a way for residents to meet their neighbors and build a sense of community. The dinner events were held in private homes, and the program provided the guests with a trained facilitator to lead the discussion. All diners discussed the same list of questions in the different homes. Pre-COVID, residents were happy to welcome people they didn’t know into their homes. But COVID changed how we interact, so we took a hiatus for at least a year. Following that time, we hosted joint dinner events with all the tables in the same location, like DeSoto’s Civic Center. These dinner events are good but not as intimate as having dinners in private homes. This year, we want to try to go back to our roots.”

The city held a Meet & Greet Event on October 30th and invited the community to come and learn more about the program. There were nearly 50 people who attended that event, and the city used it to explain the program one-on-one and ask those in attendance to consider hosting.

man holding microphone with people seated at tables
DeSoto Meet and Greet event Photo credit City of DeSoto

Jones said that from the Meet & Greet event, six community members volunteered to host a dinner in their home. Four board members also agreed to host, so the city is planning ten dinner events with six guests, a facilitator, and a host.

“If we are able to host ten tables, we will have 80 participants in the January program,” Joned added.

In the future, the city is hoping to host at least two dinner events each year.

Jones said, “We are trying to recruit a diverse group of residents and want to reach out to our expanding Hispanic population to attend.”

Dining and Dialogue will occur on Saturday, January 13, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. The theme for the dinner will be “We are one,” with a discussion to include the following: “What is your family culture?” “What brought you to Desoto, and what keeps you here?” “What aspects of your culture do you see or wish you could see in Desoto?” and “What will you do to enhance our community culture?”

If you would like to register to attend the dinner and discussion, please do so by January 10 at www.desotodd.org.

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