No more free lunch, er, dinner in Guerneville – Sonoma West

Honored for their service, Guerneville free dinners project founders hope others will take up the cause

Sonoma County Supervisors passed a gold resolution last week honoring Seann Zales and Zanzara Dancer for their 35 years of dedication serving free dinners in the Guerneville Veterans Hall.

Zales and Dancer started serving free dinners in 1983 and kept at it, eventually feeding a hot meal to anyone who walked in the door at the Guerneville Vets Hall on Wednesday night.

More recently the dinners were served every other week and then came to an end last month — but Zales and Dancer are hoping someone else will step up to keep it going.

“We’re just kind of tired,” said Dancer. “We’re in our 70s. We loved doing it, and we’ll miss it, but it’s just time.”

They still plan to stay active helping out in the lower river community, said Dancer.

Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins sponsored last week’s commemorative resolution honoring Dancer and Zales for their commitment to the community.

“For 35 years, residents in Guerneville and the Lower Russian River have had access to a free, vegetarian, hot meal, cooked and served entirely by husband and wife duo Zanzara Dancer and Seann Zales, two Haight-Ashbury transplants who found their way to Sonoma County,” said Hopkins’ Gold Resolution.

According to Hopkins’ resolution,  “after receiving a portion of a $250,000 raffle prize in 1983, Zanzara and Seann began a weekly sit-down meal every Wednesday at Monte Rio’s old Country Kitchen restaurant, kicking off nearly four decades of providing free meals.”

“In the early days of the weekly dinners,” the resolution continued, “Zanzara and Seann served nearly 300 people on busy weeks, bringing their children into the kitchen to help cook, clean and learn.”

After 16 years they cut back operations to every other Wednesday and moved to the Veterans Memorial Building in Guerneville, where they also offer used clothing, blankets, coasts, sleeping bags, toiletries and more to the 50 to 100 people who would show up, said Hopkins’s resolution.

“Zanzara and Seann created more than just an opportunity to receive a hot, nutritious meal for free,” said Hopkins’ resolution. “They created a weekly, bi-weekly and eventually monthly venue for community, camaraderie, hope and love.”

As the free dinners became a Guerneville institution, “Zanzara and Seann worked tirelessly to get support from the community, garnering help from the Redwood Empire Food Bank, Alvarado Street Bakery, the County of Sonoma, countless volunteers and more,” said Hopkins’ resolution.

“Therefore, Be It Resolved,” the resolution concluded, “that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Sonoma honors and celebrates Zanzara Dancer and Seann Zales for their 35 years of altruistic work supporting and helping our county’s most vulnerable.”