Heart of Dinner Is Serving Up Hope

These volunteers are motivated by history and culture, by a need to serve those too long ignored by our society. This is personal work. For Nancy Pappas, the first designer of Heart of Dinner’s logo and website, her identity as a Korean American adoptee without a strong link to her history is what motivated her to join. Through Heart of Dinner, she’s found a deep connection, and she looks up to Moonlynn and Yin as role models. “It’s a very homey community; it’s a family-based space,” Nancy says.

Andrew Teoh, who has designed tote bags for Heart of Dinner, agrees: “When I first heard about the initiative, I immediately thought about my parents. I thought about the elderly who are too scared to go out because of COVID and xenophobic attacks.” Now, he says, “Heart of Dinner means community to me. And, also, family.”

What makes Heart of Dinner so special—so urgent and necessary and sustaining—is this shared understanding of family as something greater than blood ties and households and much more than a simple relationship of obligation. More than feeding the vulnerable, Moonlynn and Yin’s organization is about respect. Yin shares an anecdote of one family that bonded over decorating Heart of Dinner bags early last year, when three generations were confined inside an apartment together. Months later, when the matriarch was brutally attacked, her daughter was surprised to hear her bring up Heart of Dinner. “I’m now one of those victims they care for,” she said. “Thank God for them.” Moonlynn recounts reading about an older man who was attacked with a box cutter, and how desperately they searched for his identity so that they could offer assistance. As they were about to give up, the victim’s neighbors reached out to ask for Heart of Dinner’s help. “We had chills. His friends were like angels,” Yin says. The man, fully recovered, receives weekly packages now, addressed with his affectionate moniker of Big Brother in his native tongue. Yin shakes her head: “We were trying to find you.”

There’s an aura of kismet that hangs around all of Heart of Dinner’s work, and at its center is Moonlynn and Yin’s relationship. They are a rare couple—magnetic, sincere leaders who make things happen. While Moonlynn is taller and quieter, and Yin is chatty and quick to smile, they are both deeply empathetic and thoughtful. As two people in the creative sphere with unpredictable schedules, they have cultivated flexibility, and the boundaries between their work have blurred. Moonlynn helps Yin with her podcast, and Yin has buoyed Moonlynn through the ups and downs of restaurant life. Jacqueline Russo Eng, of Partybus Bakeshop, says, “It’s not often you meet people like those two. Everything that they do, they put 1,000% into, and they genuinely want to. They’re not doing anything out of obligation ever. It’s refreshing.”

Moonlynn believes their ability to adapt to new challenges and form community wherever they go stems from their genesis as a couple—they fell for each other at Burning Man. “It felt like my soul was set ablaze,” Yin says, grinning at Moonlynn. “I think something about falling for somebody in a place where there’s no boundaries, no labels, no nothing—that’s how our entire core and foundation of our relationship has been. That’s just how we do things, and maybe people pick up on it too.” With Heart of Dinner, after seven years of dating, they have finally been able to create something together as equal partners.

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