Saturday, March 3, 2012 | 7:40 p.m.
Giovanna Raccosta had a dream last September that wouldn’t let her go back to sleep: she dreamt that she could feed the less fortunate. Instead of waiting until the next day to brainstorm, she immediately hopped out of bed and typed up a plan to organize a monthly volunteer dinner for those in need. Two weeks later, Dinner on Us was born.
“For me, it’s miracle making,” Raccosta said. "I’ve found this to be my calling in life.”
Raccosta’s Dinner on Us, created with 20 volunteers, became a monthly event hosted at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission at 480 W. Bonanza Road. The first Saturday of every month, Raccosta and helpers bring bought and donated food items to the shelter’s kitchen to cook dinner for its 150 residents and another 350 homeless people.
Each month comes with a new theme — the first was Italian, then Persian, and for the new year, Chinese, Raccosta said.
When the event started last October, food came from the few volunteers who knew about the small operation. Now, more people are donating and restaurants are joining in as well.
"Sometimes we get surprises,” Raccosta said. “This morning, I had a truckload of fruits and vegetables at my front door.”
Earlier this year, a couple donated 200 pounds of chicken for the Chinese New Year dinner.
Paymon’s Mediterranean Café, Rocco’s NY Pizzeria and Chef Marc’s Pastavino and deli are just some of the regular local food sponsors.
To add to the dinner, Raccosta organizes live entertainment, usually by professional singers and dancers willing to donate their time. She even rolls out a red carpet and decorates the mission cafeteria to fit the month’s theme.
Rescue mission residents Su McElroy and John Long said the monthly event is a treat to them and others participating in the shelter’s one-year recovery program. They both are celebrating more than eight months of sobriety.
“It makes me tear up,” McElroy said. “We work all day and we go to classes all night and then we go to chapel, so we really don’t have that much time to ourselves to enjoy.”
Treating the recovering addicts with respect is one of Raccosta’s personal missions.
“These people deserve to be treated with dignity,” she said. “They have so many problems in their life and a little bit goes a long way. We always do a little extra because the extra counts.”
Joyce Lynch, former gambling addict, has been at the mission for 15 months. While working part-time to get back on her feet, Lynch said she is grateful for the effort volunteers put into brightening her day.
“Even though they bring food, the first thing that strikes me is that someone poured their heart into this event,” she said. “Someone poured their love into the event and you can see (that) first and the food falls afterward. They really put everything into it and I’m so appreciative for it.”
To join or donate to Dinner on Us, email Raccosta at [email protected].