Our team includes 300+ hosts across the country—men and women, gay and straight, of various colors and creeds and histories, who spend their days as chefs, artists, lawyers, therapists, yoga instructors, graphic designers, academics, students, writers, creators, and more.
Meet our HQ:
Heather Abbott / Director, Healing & Justice / Dallas
Heather helped found Austin's first table in 2014. In the spring of 2016, she returned to her home city of Dallas and now hosts a new table, while also working with TDP HQ to build safe and inclusive communities for newcomers, longtime guests and hosts alike. Heather is an active creative professional who markets for a major architecture firm, writes and photographs for an online publication, serves various freelance clients and underserved communities, and runs her own passion brand. To keep her head clear, she takes time to herself to enjoy social cycling, fort-building and rap karaoke with friends. Heather has experienced three major losses her life - her father and major influencer, her grandmother and award-winning pie-baker, and her 17-year-old family pet and what seemed like a lifelong companion, Bean. Despite processing grief daily, Heather still laughs a little longer, and little louder than others. She hopes to bring social awareness to existing groups in her creative network, as well as build meaningful partnerships with others.
Gabriel Back-Gaal / Community Development Officer / Brooklyn
Gabe lost one of his moms to ovarian cancer when he was a teenager. After years of processing his grief through movement and writing, Gabe heard about The Dinner Party - a community where people could live their grief among others, without feeling the need to box it up and hide it away - and began hosting a table in Brooklyn, NY. Outside of The Dinner Party, Gabe’s work includes babysitting and co-chairing the New York chapter of COLAGE, a community-building and leadership-development organization run by and for people with one or more LGBTQ+ parent. He is deeply interested in the intersections of identity, social justice, and holistic well-being, and hopes to continue bringing these diverse threads together in his work.
Carla Fernandez / Co-Founder / Los Angeles
The family dinner table is sacred ground in the Fernandez family - so when her dad passed away of brain cancer, coming back to the table was a natural way for Carla to connect with others and unpack the experience of life after loss. When not cooking up a mean vegetarian paella, Carla is the General Manager of enso, a creative agency working with brands like Google, Khan Academy, and Omidyar Network on branding and community activation campaigns.
Lennon Flowers / Co-Founder + Executive Director / Los Angeles
Lennon lost her mom during her senior year of college, following a four-year fight with lung cancer. Three years later, she hitched up her wagon and headed West. Three-thousand miles away from home, she found she no longer had anyone with whom she could talk about her mom, and explore the way in which her life, death, and absence continued to affect her. When Carla, a friend, colleague, and soon-to-be roommate, invited her over for dinner, it was a no-brainer. She most recently served as the Community Director of Ashoka's Start Empathy Initiative, and has written for CNN, Forbes, Open Democracy, EdWeek, YES! Magazine, and GOOD, among others. She is an Ashoka Fellow and an Aspen Ideas Scholar, and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Somer Ann Greene / Community Development Intern / Cambridge, UK
Somer is a recent graduate of Occidental College, where she created her own academic major to pursue a career in Community Based Marketing and Research in the non-profit sector. She's currently living in England, studying at the University of Cambridge for her Masters in Sociology with an emphasis in Nonprofit Media and Culture. She is passionate about volunteerism and student activism, her work focusing on connecting students with Los Angeles community partners in service projects on and off the college campus.
Dara Kosberg / Founding Team Member + Chief Business Officer / San Francisco
Dara is a founding team member of The Dinner Party (TDP), a nonprofit organization out to transform life after loss from an isolating experience into one marked by community support, candid conversation, and forward movement. She joined TDP before its launch in 2013 as Chief Community Builder to create that same feeling of community and shared understanding for others that she experienced at her first Dinner Party. She's now developing a corporate program for TDP to change workplace culture around loss. Dara is a strategy consultant with 15 years of experience developing educational programs and cross-sector partnerships at nonprofit and for-profit organizations. She has a MA in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education.
Sara Lord / Web Development Intern / NYC
Sara is a writer living in New York City. But before all that, she was a devoted daughter, who lost her Mom to sudden illness. Grief allowed her to focus on what truly made her happy which was how she found New York City and, subsequently, The Dinner Party. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from San Francisco State University with a BA in English: Creative Writing. As the Web Development Intern, her main focus is the transition of TDP’s web platform.
Jules Ostro / Community Director / Berkeley
Jules considers the dinner table a unique space for storytelling, connecting over ideas, and sharing ritual. After her father passed away from breast cancer in 2008, Jules hoped to find a community that embraced #realtalk and found that in TDP when she first met co-founders Lennon and Carla in 2011. Jules has been a part of TDP's core team since 2015, and in her first eight months oversaw a 300% growth in active Dinner Party tables and cities. Jules graduated from UCLA magna cum laude, balancing her passion for the humanities and commitment to social research by studying Art History and researching stigma and stereotype threat. Prior to that, Jules completed an internship with mentally disabled children and adults at Ability First and received awards of recognition from both the CA State Senate and Legislature. As of fall 2016, Jules has been a Research Assistant for an alternative sexualities study at the UC Berkeley Extension school, and is applying for graduate school in Sociology to study where grief meets gender and queerness.
Taylor Rae / Community Development Intern / Brooklyn
Taylor Rae feels at home joining The Dinner Party in building empowering, authentic social spaces and solidarity networks. Since losing her uncle to lung cancer shortly after graduating from college, Taylor was inspired to shift toward downsizing and simple living, realizing the intrinsic value of memory, experience and most of all, spirit. A 2013 graduate of Williams College, where she majored in English and Philosophy, Taylor translates the privilege of her liberal arts education to community-oriented media as a freelance writer and social media consultant, representing independent artists and nonprofits. She is passionate about radical municipalism, inclusive infrastructure and philosophy of narrative. A creative writer who eventually will return to fiction, Taylor currently manages Little Local Life, a lifestyle blog on urban sustainability, regenerative economy and millennial minimalism in Brooklyn.
Sebastian Buck / Co-founder and Strategic Lead / Enso
Sebastian Buck is Strategic Lead of Enso and oversees strategic development across all clients. Recently, he co-founded and was Strategic Lead of GOOD/Corps, where he led work with Pepsi on the Pepsi Refresh Project, with Starbucks on Create Jobs for USA and Vote.Give.Grow and with Google, GE, MasterCard and the Gates Foundation. His focus is on building initiatives that achieve social impact through strategy, communications and community building. His background is in strategy consulting and development for major companies and new initiatives. Previous work includes the strategy and development for GOOD's media and community business, the launch of Disney Mobile in Japan and multiple European countries, establishing British Telecom's video on demand service in the UK (BT Vision), and strategy development for Helio, a new-entrant US wireless operator. He holds a law degree from the University of Warwick, UK, and studied corporate finance at London Business School.
Donna Callejon / Chief Business Officer / GlobalGiving
Donna is responsible for development of corporate and other strategic partnerships for GlobalGiving. She joined GlobalGiving in 2003, and has worn quite a few hats, including Chief Operating Officer. Now she gets to spend her days doing what she loves - working with companies to help them contribute positively to communities around the world. Donna also serves on the Boards of GlobalGiving UK, Women's Funding Network, and Water for People. She previously was on the Boards of the Washington Area Women's Foundation (three years as Chair) and Business for Social Responsibility. In a prior life, Donna was a senior executive of Fannie Mae having, over a dozen years,led business units as varied as strategic planning, international consulting, marketing, product development, and customer technology. She holds a B.S. in Managerial Economics from UC Davis, but is most proud of her high school basketball team's CCS championship in 1980.
Tim Carpenter / Founder & Executive Director / EngAGE
Tim is the founder of EngAGE and host/producer of the EXPERIENCE TALKS radio show. EngAGE is a nonprofit that changes aging and the way people think about aging by transforming senior apartment communities into vibrant centers of learning, wellness and creativity. EngAGE provides life-enhancing arts, wellness, lifelong learning, community building and intergenerational programs and events to thousands of seniors living in Southern California. Experience Talks is a radio magazine that shines a light on the value of experience in society, airing for 250,000 listeners on Saturdays at 8 a.m. Pacific on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara and streaming live worldwide on the web at www.kpfk.org. The show is syndicated by the Pacifica Network to up to 100 cities nationwide. Tim catalyzed the creation of the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, a first-of-its-kind senior apartment community with high-end arts amenities and programs. Tim serves on the board of the National Center for Creative Aging. In 2008, Tim was elected an Ashoka Fellow for being one of the top social entrepreneurs in the world, and in 2011 he received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award.
Terry Chadsey / Executive Director / The Center for Courage & Renewal
Terry is charged with leading a vital organization that strongly represents, supports and grows the Circle of Trust® approach. He has been a Courage & Renewal Facilitator since 2002 and on the staff of the Center since 2005. He has led scores of Courage & Renewal programs for teachers, school leaders and leaders of all kinds. He worked in public education for 32 years, teaching grades K through 8 in Chicago, Australia and Washington for 22 of those years. After leaving the classroom he provided leadership to school and district improvement efforts and coaching and professional development to districts and schools, principals and teachers. Terry holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Chicago. He is a founder of Sound Discipline, a lead trainer for the Positive Discipline Association. Terry lives in Seattle with his wife Jane Chadsey. They are in love with each other, their four young adult children and their three-year old granddaughter.
Brenda Kiefer / Brand Communications & Marketing Consultant
Brenda helps some of the world’s most loved brands create world-changing initiatives and share their successes through creative communications. Working at Cone Communications, the agency that pioneered cause branding, she advised companies like Starbucks, Harley Davidson, Jockey, L’Oreal and Nestle Waters on their corporate responsibility and strategic philanthropic efforts. Wearing her nonprofit hat, Brenda oversaw Marketing & Communications for Net Impact, where she led the organization through a major brand transformation that has brought new clarity, vitality, and engagement to the brand. She was also a member of the team that created the strategy for the award-winning American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign.
Delphyne J. Platner / Ph.D., MFT, CHT
As a Doctor of Women's Spirituality and a psychotherapist, Delphyne Platner believes we all possess an innate ability to heal ourselves. She aspires to help clients awaken to their inherent wisdom, empowering them with tools to facilitate their own healing. Dr. Platner’s vision of healing is very much in alignment with the spirit in which The Dinner Party was born. She has witnessed The Dinner Party since its inception. Once it was decided to grow The Dinner Party beyond the original table, Delphyne, deeply inspired by this plan, offered to serve as a mental health consultant, supporting the founders in the ongoing cultivation of their project. As a psychotherapist who has practiced in San Francisco and New York, she cannot emphasize the extent to which we need The Dinner Party in the world. It is entirely unique in the field. In more than fifteen years of doing this work, Delphyne has yet to encounter groups where she feels comfortable sending clients who are grieving. Until now.
Kirk Souder / Co-founder and Creative Lead / Enso
Kirk Souder is the Creative Lead of Enso. Enso helps brands, businesses and organizations align business strategy with social impact to help them achieve new levels of business success and audience participation. Previously Kirk was Creative Lead & ECD of GOOD/Corps, whose clients include the Pepsi Refresh Project, Starbucks, Google, GE, Shell, Cisco, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation. Prior to GOOD/Corps, Kirk was working as ECD with Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai on Nike, Converse, and Proctor & Gamble projects, and was Partner ECD of GMMB in Washington DC, the world’s foremost cause and advocacy communications firm. While there, Kirk oversaw all creative product of the company whose clients include the White House (Obama’s Call to Service Campaign), the United Nations Foundation, the Girl Up campaign, the Red Cross, AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Obama For America. Kirk was also an Executive Producer and Co-Creator of “ART & COPY”, a film in the Official Documentary Selection of Sundance 2009 and an Emmy Winner in 2011.
Jan Visick / Writer & Editor, Social Impact Evaluator / Ashoka
Jan is a freelance editor, and has served since the 1990’s as a consultant and second-opinion interviewer for Ashoka, conducting hundreds of in-depth interviews with candidates for one of today’s most strategic social entrepreneurship Fellowship programs. She is a member of the board of directors of Commonweal, in Bolinas, California, and is the mother of two sons.
Douglas Weiss / Senior Associate / McKinsey & Company
Doug is part of the Marketing and Sales practice at McKinsey and Company. He works with companies and non-profit organizations to help them better understand the needs of their customers and how to create their products and organizations to match these needs. He rejoined McKinsey after getting an MBA and MS in Product Design at Stanford University in December of 2013. Outside of work, Doug founded the Theresa Gioannini foundation for Women in Science to honor his own mother, who was a pioneer in biochemistry. In a previous life, he and Lennon teamed up to found Students Working in the Environment for Active Transformation, an organization that uses active experiences in nature to help connect students to the environment and create opportunities for environmental service.