Our History

 

Wayne Merrill began serving the homeless in Northwest DC in 1988. At that time, the organization he was volunteering with cruised the city looking for the glow of fires in oil drums (fire barrels). After a few months, they developed an itinerary that visited 5 or 6 places, serving a total of 40 - 50 people in groups of 5-10. At each stop, they would get out of the van and visit with the people. In 1990, that organization decided to change its program to serve 225 people in 2 new stops. In order to continue serving the same people he had known for 2 years, Wayne left that organization and founded Sunday Suppers.

The first Sunday Suppers run was September 30, 1990. In the first year, Wayne acquired a junk station wagon. Sunday Suppers’ weekly itinerary visited 4 of the sites Wayne used to serve, including 45-60 people. By the end of the first year, one of the sites lost its people due to construction. Two of the remaining sites were close enough together to combine. However, total attendance increased to 75 people at the remaining 2 sites. By the end of the second year, total attendance leveled off at approximately 100 people at the 2 sites. Sunday Suppers continued to use the junk station wagon, which severely limited the amount of food, clothes and people that could be carried.

In 1997, a local used car dealer helped Wayne purchase a van for Sunday Suppers. This made it possible to carry long tables and stacking chairs and to play the music everyone likes (the median age is approximately 45). People began dancing on the sidewalk. In October of 1998, Sunday Suppers was forced to move to a new location because construction on the new DC Convention Center obliterated the 2nd stop location as well as the local neighborhood. Attendance at the second stop dropped to zero. Wayne and his partner Mary Ann began hanging posters at the places homeless people congregate in the daytime and driving around Sunday afternoons to find the Sunday Suppers gang and personally invite them to the new location only 2 blocks away. As a result, total attendance returned to approximately 100 per week.

In July 2006, Wayne and Mary Anne moved to Florida. Some of the volunteers that helped them continue their weekly service, and a board was created to help oversee the organization. In 2009, we bought a new (second hand) van! Every Sunday night, that van still pulls up to the same two street corners. Today, Sunday Suppers is still dancing with people Wayne met in 1988. In all the years since 1990, Sunday Suppers has missed only one Sunday night, in the Blizzard of 1996.