One group of Obama supporters keeps in touch, and starts a tasty tradition
At any gathering of “The Dinner Club” conversation soon turns to food. “As much as we like to go out, we like to cook,” says founding member Scottessa Hurte.
Food and fellowship are the focus for this group who meets at least once monthly to dine out in Richmond.
But since they first gathered a little more than a year ago, the campaign of Barack Obama has dominated conversations as well.
“All of us were huge supporters,” says Dr. Paula Young, a Dinner Club member. Dr. Young, 36, frequently works 8 to 24 hour shifts as the in-house neonatology physician at Bon Secours, so she didn’t take on an official role at Campaign Headquarters. But Scottessa, 38, was Volunteer Coordinator of the Faith and Outreach Program.
Walton Jones, another Dinner Club regular, is an Army Lieutenant Colonel stationed at Fort Lee. He got heavily involved in the Campaign knocking on doors in Petersburg. He even took his brother, niece and nephew to talk to voters about the candidate in his hometown of Monk’s Corner, South Carolina.
But it was in Atlanta where Walton, 44, first met Paula. Years later, after Paula had graduated University of Virginia Medical School and Lt. Col. Jones had served in Korea, they both found themselves living in the Richmond-area. “With Paula and I coming from Atlanta, there was so much diversity as far as places and people,” Walton says.
However, when Walton came to Richmond and began to explore better restaurants, he admits, “Diversity wasn’t visible. So we said, ‘We need to network and establish a presence in the Richmond dining scene.’”
To kick things off, Ron Carrington, a grad school friend of Scottessa’s hosted a dinner party where many of the core group met. “About five or six of us came over,” remembers Walton. “It was such a nice time, we said, hey, we’re going to do this again. Let’s make something called The Dinner Club and invite our friends.”
That was in the fall of 2007. With ten core members, ages range from early 30s to mid 40s. An air of youthful sophistication infuses the Dinner Club. Paula laughs with Scottessa about a fondue party she hosted for her young nieces, and then they launch into talk about the social networking site, Facebook. Most everyone is careful about what they eat, and the group includes one vegetarian.
Each member indulges his personal favorite when suggesting a new restaurant. “We do whatever a dinner club member comes up with,” says Scottessa. “We just want to try it.”
They’ve been to the Jefferson Hotel, the Boathouse, Edo’s Squid, and more. “We even went to Charlottesville,” adds Paula.
One member prefers upscale restaurants and wine festivals. Paula confesses that her pick is usually ethnic cuisine. Another member guides the group to comfort food, and had a Southern “down home potluck” at her house. They’ve been known to combine the fun, and have gone to Bertucci’s for dinner followed by Funny Bone Comedy Club. Sometimes they attend church together and then have dinner out. They celebrated their one-year anniversary at Lebanese restaurant, the Phoenician.
How they choose which night to meet is simple: “I feel special, but really, they ask me when I’m off,” Paula says. “They’re very good to me.”
Scottessa explains: “We have too much fun together to go without Paula.”
Scottessa is only one of two married members, and the other is her husband. “Every time Cedric misses one, he gets upset,” she says. Another couple is engaged.
“We have an element of trust with us,” Scottessa says. “It’s our little safe haven.”
As the Obama Campaign heightened its efforts, Dinner Club agenda shifted. When Obama recommended to supporters that they designate two nights a month to organize house meetings, the Dinner Club implemented his suggestion into group meetings.
“During our Thanksgiving Dinner Club meeting, and then again in December, we told people to go online and register for a house meeting that may be in their neighborhood, Walton says. “So instead of doing the Dinner Club, we focused on doing volunteerism where we lived. We used the Dinner Club to put out news of what was happening [in the campaign.]”
Now that their work on Barack Obama’s campaign has concluded, what are they doing for the Inauguration?
Scottessa got a ticket to the swearing-in and plans to stay with friends in Washington D.C. Paula will attend a black-tie gala hosted by the Stafford, Virginia chapter of the NAACP.
And as for future destinations for the Dinner Club, there’s no limit. “There’s been some talk about Las Vegas,” Paula says.
Does the current economic climate ever dampen their dining spirits?
Scottessa answers, “Cost is cost. It’s one night monthly. You plan for it, you do it. All of us work really hard. We relax. It’s a good feeling.”
Walton says, “Most of all, it just gives us a chance to see each other and to fellowship.”
by Cesca Janece Waterfield