International workers find a place to eat, socialize | ParkRecord.com

International workers find a place to eat, socialize

Kristina Eastham, Of the Record staff

Last Tuesday, there were a few representatives from Argentina, one young man from New Zealand, and an entire cheering section from Brazil. Crammed into the back room of the Park City Christian Center, around 250 seasonal workers dine, elbow-to-elbow, every week on a free meal.

Each Tuesday from January through the end of March the Christian Center opens its doors to anyone interested in eating or socializing, although the bulk of those who turn up are foreign seasonal workers. The International Dinners, as they’re called, are in their sixth year and still thriving.

According to Christian Center Director Tim Dahlin, the night consists of four parts. First, and most importantly, is eating. The international youth line up to fill their plates with food donated from local community members, organizations and restaurants. Last Tuesday there were two turkeys that had been prepared by members of the Park City Community Church congregation on top of the burgers, salad, pizza, pastas and casseroles.

Many of the seasonal workers say they make enough money to get by, but with the high rent they don’t have much money to spare. They see nutritious, cheap (or better yet, free) meals as a rarity.

"It’s the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been here, I think," said Lee Shafran, an employee at The Canyons who said it was his first time at the International Dinner with his "mates."

The second part of the evening is Tim’s Time in which Dahlin gives a three- to five-minute speech. While he normally speaks about one of the Sebastian Salgado photographs hanging throughout the Christian Center, last Tuesday he gave a Powerpoint presentation showing about 25 of the artist’s photographs that feature laborers around the world and lecturing about leaving home and the importance of family.

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"I hope that they will be able to identify with them [the photos] and their own families back in South America," Dahlin said before the speech. The topic of family was inspired by the recent death of his 95-year-old mother.

Dahlin says the dinners also provide international workers with a place to socialize with one other. Malin Blomqvist, a lift operator at The Canyons who is from Finland, says she comes both to socialize with other international employees and of course, for the free food.

"I came in last week and it was the most fun I’ve had without getting drunk in a long time," said Dan Claxton, a Canyons lift operator, here from England.

The third part of the evening is English and Spanish karaoke, deejayed by Dieguito, a deejay from Harry O’s nightclub. After everyone who want to has taken a turn on the microphone, the final part of the evening involves giving out door prizes; everything from toiletries to food to a boom box. Dahlin even searched through the matted and messy hair to award free shampoo to the person with the "worst hair."

Shortly before the Christian Center started hosting the International Dinners, they began helping seasonal employees find furniture to fill their apartments during the season. Tim recalls helping one girl back to her apartment with some food from the food bank and noticing that their apartment lacked furniture.

Since then Dahlin and the Christian Center collect furniture throughout the fall and store it in the back room until its picked up by workers who use it for the season. January, the back room is empty and the Christian Center hosts the dinners. Last season they served over 3,000 meals to workers, and to date have served over 11,500 meals.

Last Tuesday, for the second time this season about 10 volunteers from the Park City Ambassadors, the volunteer branch of the Chamber of Commerce, purchased, cooked and served food at the event and helped clean up afterwards.

"It’s a good way to show them how great Park City is and how appreciative we are of them helping out at the resorts," Joel Fine, President of the Park City Ambassadors, said. "Its also good to get them a good, hot meal."

Fine says this is the second year the Ambassadors have volunteered and that they will definitely do it again next year. He says its "really gratifying" to see the kids "wolfing down" food they’ve provided.

"They’ll eat any food available," Fine said. "It’s great."

The last dinner of the year will be March 23 at 5:30 p.m. To volunteer or donate food, contact the Christian Center at 649-2260.

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