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24th annual Mildred Council Community Dinner will emphasize community, honor legacies


Photo of Nerys Levy (left) and Mildred Council (right). Courtesy of Jackie Helvey.

“Sit down with a stranger and leave with a friend” is the slogan for the yearly Mildred Council Community Dinner. The 24th annual event, which will honor Council’s legacy, will take place in the McDougle Middle School cafetorium on April 28.

Nerys Levy, chair of the event, said the purpose of the dinner is to bring the community together through food and entertainment while fostering cultural and socioeconomic representation. Over the course of two decades, the dinners have involved around 22,000 people, she said.

“It’s actually a pretty dynamic event and always reflects the current community we have in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange County and beyond,” Levy said.

Levy said the event was originally established to celebrate Black History Month, but it quickly developed into a multicultural event of inclusion.

This year, there will be 21 food donors including Mama Dip’s Kitchen, which provides the main meal for the event every year. Entertainment for this year’s dinner will include Venezuelan Dance Group NC, Bull City Saxophone Quartet, gospel singer Earl Bynum and theatre group 1,2,3 Puppetry.

Aaron Keck, the morning DJ on 97.9 WCHL, has attended the event in the past. He said the dinner is an opportunity for the entire community to be in the same room at the same time.

Keck said the dinner brings a sense of tradition to the community and allows for community bonding without the pressure of addressing urgent issues.

“For any community to survive and thrive and to be the sort of community that you want to be in and want to live in, you need that solidarity and you need those communal ties and bonds, and this is a really simple way of accomplishing that,” Keck said.

The dinner honors the late Mildred "Mama Dip" Council and her legacy in the community. As the founder of Mama Dip’s Kitchen, Council was a community activist who always included people from different backgrounds at her tables and in her kitchen, Levy said.

Spring Council, Mildred Council’s daughter and product manager at Mama Dip’s Kitchen, said the event provided a space to bring people together. She said her mother was dedicated to helping people and bringing them together, and that this event continues what her mother started.

“Inside our restaurant and outside our restaurant, especially at the community dinner, just that piece of her and naming it after her pretty much continues her legacy,” Council said.

The dinner's photographer and web designer, Jackie Helvey, said the event has always been a positive and wonderful experience in previous years.

“I know that she’s looking down and she’s just thrilled, because that’s what she was all about,” Helvey said.

Tickets for the dinner are available online. Levy said she encourages anyone who needs additional assistance purchasing tickets to contact her or Mama Dip’s Kitchen.

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