Dinner is served: Chef brings women together to help the homeless

Duner’s executive chef Laura Fonner has spearheaded a drive to provide chef-driven, home-cooked suppers for PACEM—an organization that provides cold-weather shelter for the homeless—each Tuesday throughout the winter months. She was inspired to take action after helping to serve at a PACEM dinner late last winter.

“I met a man who had worked in restaurants his whole life but had had a stroke and lost all ability to use his hands,” she says. “This struck me to the core—this could be me. I vowed in that moment that this is something I wanted to get involved in.”

Fonner credits her “secret weapon”—a group of some 80 women in an exercise boot camp she runs in Crozet—with helping launch the program, enabling her to run two shelter dinners (one for men, one for women) in two locations (church members feed PACEM guests on the other nights of the week). Members of Charlottesville Women in Food are also helping with cooking and donations, and Fonner has received food from Autumn Olive FarmsGryffon’s Aerie, and Sam Rust, as well as financial contributions from The Pie ChestTin Whistle Irish PubNona’s Italian Cucina, and Vivace.

With recent donations, the group has also assembled baskets of self-care items and a grab bag of holiday cookies for those staying at PACEM, which moves among various places of worship each week.

Fonner is thrilled to see her dreams so readily turned into reality. “I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many strong and caring women,” she says.

To donate or volunteer, contact Fonner at lfonner23@gmail.com.