The idea for Lunch in Lawrence came from School of Education & Social Policy Associate Dean Russ Olwell who was passing through the city’s downtown with colleagues last May when he suggested it would be fun to have lunch there.
Fr. Ray liked the idea and developed a plan to make monthly visits to different restaurants in downtown Lawrence this academic year. To make it easier for faculty and staff to take part, each month will be on a different day of the week and at a different restaurant.
The goal is to offer members of the Merrimack community a positive experience of the city while making a small contribution to its economy and enjoying a meal with colleagues. In return, Lawrence gets to know the Merrimack community more personally, Fr. Ray said. It’s similar to a tradition the College’s Augustinian priests have of dining out together.
“Every month the priory has a house meeting and then we go out to dinner in Lawrence for a different experience and to be a part of that community,” he said.
Terra Luna Cafe was a great place to start the program, Urbaez said. It is a family friendly atmosphere with delicious food and eclectic art one the walls that shows the culture of Lawrence.
“The food was terrific,” she said. “It was full of Latin flavors and the Caribbean culture.”
Twenty faculty and staff took part in the inaugural Lunch in Lawrence and the College provided two vans to transport everyone.
“I think this is a great way to get people out to Lawrence, feel comfortable and a launch to do other things,” Olwell said. “It’s a strength for the city. Lawrence has great restaurants, great places to go.”
Fr. Ray’s idea to build community was a hit with Ann Ryan and Leslie Zahoruiko, operations specialists in undergraduate admissions which has offices off campus.
“We love to sit with people and chat because we’re kind of isolated where we are,” Ryan said.
Laura Hillier, director of community partnerships in the Graduate Education Department, said it makes sense for Merrimack to immerse itself in Lawrence and other nearby communities.
“It’s wonderful to get off campus and appreciate Lawrence,” she said.
Marketing Department assistant professor Yilong “Eric” Zheng said he enjoyed having lunch in downtown Lawrence.
“I enjoy the environment,” he said.
The next Lunch in Lawrence is scheduled for Cafe Azteca at 180 Common St., Lawrence Oct. 22.