PEACEmeal is much, much more than delicious dinner

PEACEmeal When: 4-8 p.m. March 2Admission: $15, cash or check onlyWhere: Myriam's Table Cafe, 221 W. Main St., LigonierDetails: 724-238-4584 or up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 52 minutes ago Patrons participating...

PEACEmeal is much, much more than delicious dinner


When: 4-8 p.m. March 2

Admission: $15, cash or check only

Where: Myriam's Table Cafe, 221 W. Main St., Ligonier

Details: 724-238-4584 or

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Updated 52 minutes ago

Patrons participating in a Ligonier eatery's new monthly fundraising effort can both share a meal and support a cause.

Lisa Houser, owner/operator of Myriam's Table Cafe and Catering, said its first PEACEmeal in February quickly sold out.

That dinner was held to benefit the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense organization of unarmed volunteers who rush in after bombings to perform search and rescue missions. More than 150 have died while performing those efforts.

According to its website, the White Helmets organization also works to deliver public services to nearly seven million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings.

“I am half Syrian. The idea with PEACEmeal is to try to make an authentic meal (from the beneficiary's place of origin), so that was a no-brainer,” Houser says.

The first effort raised nearly $2,000 for the White Helmets, she says.

The meal included hummus, baba ganoush, feta, olives, falafel, tabouli and pita, giving patrons a sample of food common to Syria.

“We were just trying to think of a way to give back. With the current political environment, we wanted to figure out a positive way to be involved, instead of a crazy, negative way. We thought, what do we do best? Meals. Everyone eats,” she says.

Meals are scheduled the first Thursday of each month, with seatings at 4, 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Take-out orders also are available. Cost of each meal is $15.

“We had people telling us, ‘We can't be there. Here's $15. Give our meal to someone else,' ” Houser says.

Others purchased two meals and paid $50, leaving the change as a donation.

Reservations are recommended, as each seating can accommodate only 25 diners.

“Last month, we sold out and had a waiting list. It's a four-hour blitz to raise as much as we can,” Houser says.

With the cafe donating the food and volunteers serving, packaging take-out and handling cleanup, 100 percent of the proceeds goes to each month's cause, Houser says.

The March 2 event will benefit the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict in North Dakota, with funds raised going to the Native American Rights Fund.

“We feel strongly that this is their land and they should be making decisions. ... It's sacred ground,” Houser says.

Protests have been peaceful, she says, and money raised will benefit the Standing Rock's Sioux tribe's ongoing legal costs.

The Native American meal will feature fry bread bison tacos, dandelion salad, green corn custard and plum cake.

Retired Rev. Janice Altenburger of Ligonier says she and Houser started talking one quiet afternoon at Myriam's Table.

“We realized we were like-minded and had concerns for areas of conflict and for people who are marginalized,” Altenburger says. “I think what happens is we become overwhelmed with all the need that exists. This gave us the idea that we are doing something.”

Her daughter, Wendy Love of Rector, and granddaughter, Lillian, 5, also volunteer with meal planning and serving.

“I've always been involved in social justice — that bringing to light conflicts happening in the world and educating people about them. ... Food is a great way to reach people and get people talking,” Love says.

Love, who homeschools her daughter, says their participation is part of the girl's education.

“We serve the dinner and we help make the dessert. She helped make baklava for the Syrian dinner. She rolls silverware. ... This is how we help other people,” she says.

“What I loved were people who had never been exposed to Syrian food who sat down and took a chance. It was wonderful to see people opening up that way,” Love says.

Future months' highlighted conflicts still are being determined.

“We are getting inundated with ideas,” Houser says.

Efforts are being made to call attention to current and under- publicized situations, in particular “boots on ground” nonprofits, so contributions do not go to administrative costs, she says.

“We thought it was a positive way to let people know where conflict is in other parts of the world. We want to make a difference, one meal at a time,” Houser says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or

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