Co-Chairs Darrin and Nicole Williams Put a Presidential Feel on Our House’s Dinner on the Grounds

Dinner on the Grounds is Our House’s annual al fresco event, inviting guests to enjoy a gourmet meal under the Arkansas stars. In recent years, Dinner on the Grounds has been served at historic locations such as the Terry House and the Governor’s Mansion. This year, the event celebrates its 10th anniversary on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at a landmark known nationally – the Clinton Presidential Center.

Southern Bancorp CEO and former state representative Darrin Williams with his wife Nicole are co-chairs of this year’s dinner. They were happy to answer our questions about the event.

What attracted you to get involved with Our House?

Darrin Williams: In 2008, I was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives for the district which included Our House. As I legislator, I made it a point to get to know not only the citizens of the district but also the business owners, community leaders and charitable organizations within the district. It did not take long to realize that Our House was a special organization having a tremendous impact on lives.

Nicole and I both were particularly attracted to Our House’s approach – to not simply feed a man but to teach him how to fish. Our House empowers its residents to help themselves. There are no “free lunches” at Our House. Each adult resident of Our House must be willing to find and maintain a full time job throughout his or her stay. Additionally, residents are required to pay a small maintenance fee and to participate in daily chores. Our House offers numerous programs and services specifically designed to help residents move from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

With approximately 75% of Our House residents making this successful transition to self-sufficiency you can’t help but be attracted to the outstanding results that Our House produces. I am proud to be a board member, and Nicole and I are excited to play a small role in the success of Our House by serving as co-chairs for this year’s Dinner on the Grounds – A Walk in the Park.

Are there “peak times” for Our House? The general thinking would be that people would come to the shelter during colder months. Is there less demand during the summer months?

DW: One-hundred and ten people call Our House home each night consistently throughout the year, but summer is definitely a time where campus life is in full swing. With children out of school for summer break and working parents suddenly without daytime childcare, the hot summer months bring extra risk of family homelessness.

For the past 8 years, Our House has provided help for those families in the form of summer programs for children and youth of all ages. Thanks to the opening of a new, larger Children’s Center in 2014, the Our Club summer program will provide fun-filled activities and creative learning for over 150 children this year, ensuring that those parents can continue employment without worry.

This year, Dinner on the Grounds moves to the Clinton Presidential Center. What new details could diners expect at this unique venue?

Nicole Williams: The Clinton Presidential Center and Park is going to be “A Walk in the Park” and the perfect backdrop for our 10th anniversary celebration. Guests will enjoy a delicious outdoor southern supper provided by Ben E. Keith, cooked to perfection by Café Forty Two. Tasty libations provided by Glazer’s and a custom spring-inspired cocktail courtesy of South on Main. The evening will also feature treats from the Loblolly Ice Cream truck, the soulful sounds of local band Lagniappe, lawn games, caricatures, and other park themed fun and festivity celebrating a decade of continued community support through Dinner on the Grounds.

This is the 10th Dinner on the Grounds. Has there been a past location that stood out for you as a favorite?

D&N: Our favorite location for Dinner on the Grounds so far has been the grounds of the Governor’s mansion. However, this event has become such a favorite for so many people that we outgrew the grounds of the mansion, so we had to change venues. We are excited about this year’s location. We think this will become our new favorite location. People forget that the Clinton Center sits within a beautiful 30-acre park, thus this year’s theme – A Walk in the Park.

Do you cook? What’s your favorite dish at home?

NW: I do not cook regularly, but I am trying to do better. I guess I don’t really like to cook. My favorite dishes to cook are spaghetti, king ranch chicken and tacos. These are my favorites because my family likes them so much.

DW: I don’t do much cooking, our family eats out way too much. I do enjoy grilling, particularly steaks, chicken, bratwursts and corn on the cob. I consider myself a “grill master” but not sure anyone else does.

Dinner on the Grounds- A Walk in the Park
May 1, 6:30 pm
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Library
Info: or 501-374-7383, ext 228

Related Articles