Come to the Table

In January, 2018, we began a year-long campaign called “Come to the Table” designed to announce our newest construction project, the W. F. “Bud” and Kay Underwood Dining Hall.

This facility will seat 450+ people with the ability to section off part of the room for special events or for lower capacity attendance. The kitchen area will have a dedicated prep kitchen, bulk food storage, bulk refrigeration, and bulk freezer space. The outside terrace will run around the outside of the dining hall on three sides and will have an outdoor fire pit for special occasions. The vast windows and outside terrace will allow students and guests to enjoy the surrounding mountains and countryside as they are dining with family and friends.

As the last large-scale campus improvement project for the foreseeable future, we would like to create a sense of community and celebration as we complete this chapter of development on our campus. 

Beyond just a place to consume a meal, a dining table is a significant part of the human experience. It is over the dining table that moods are lightened, smiles are exchanged, problems are shared, friendships are forged. 

We invite anyone who has ever shared a meal in any previous OBI dining hall to tell us a story. What are some of your memories of sitting at a table with your friends in the dining hall? Whether you always enjoyed the food or not, what do you think now about meal time at OBI? 

We plan to compile as many stories as possible here on this web page (see below). We will publish some stories in our various publications and on the OBI Facebook page. We will be mailing a letter to our mailing list as well as inviting people on social media to participate. 

Feel free to spread the word! Any stories you would like to share (and photos, too!) may be emailed to: Your stories may include your name or remain anonymous. 

Come to the table and share a story! 




Stories from the OBI Dining Hall

Perhaps this memory of my time in the OBI cafeteria will seem odd, but it is one I am compelled to share.  Having spent 30 of my 43 years at OBI, I must imagine I have eaten just about as many meals in our cafeteria as anyone ever has. My most unique memory stems from some lunches shared with a young man who was a student at Oneida for a brief time.  We were both maybe 16 or 17 years of age at the time. While I don’t remember much about what we ate, I do recall conversations about basketball, life, etc. I am not even sure what led us to the same lunch table for a brief period, but I believe the Lord is using it for His good today. This student I ate several lunches with ran into some serious trouble shortly after leaving Oneida.  In the past few years I have corresponded with him and have had the opportunity to minister to him.  Had we not gathered around the Oneida table many years ago this would not be possible or happening today. Coming to the Oneida table is not really about the food, but rather the lifelong bonds and friendships that are made. Submitted by Mr. Larry A. Gritton, Class of 1993


When I came on staff in 2003 I was put on night shift in the dorm pretty quickly.  You see very few people when you work 6 pm to 6 am.  As a single person the dining hall was the place to meet people and find out what other people did.  I have made a lot of friends here and enjoy spending time gathered around the table. Submitted by Ms. Susette Clark


My husband Jorge and I came to Oneida only four short years ago. The dinner table in our home was a place where we would share our “highs” and “lows” for the day.   It was a place to regroup, reflect and lay it all aside. So coming to Oneida where we never hardly eat as a family because all our schedules are so unpredictible was very different for us. Different is not bad. It allowed us to reach out, connect and add to our family. We enjoy when the volleyball girls or other kids are drawn to us at the table. They can share about the highs and lows of their day and can get a much needed hug or word of encouragement. We love our Oneida family, the staff and the kids are a blessing and we thank God for them. Submitted by Mrs. Allie Valdereas

 I have always like having meals in the dining hall, because I get to catch up with my friends. Submitted by current student


I'm very thankful for the lunch ladies for their hard work to have to prepare something for us every morning and providing lunch on time during school and dinner in the afternoon. It is good to wake up knowing that there will be food if we are hungry. Submitted by Cameron, current student




The dining hall has been a major source of social time besides free time. It helps when people have more time to come together and bond and just "chill." Submitted by Nathan, current student


The Oneida dining hall has meant a lot to me. The lunch ladies are so nice and caring. I do enjoy meal time, because I get to talk to my friends and visit with staff people.

Submitted by Charmaine, current student


I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the dining hall and eating with my friends like a family. Submitted by Elise, current student


When Steve May, Krissy May Combs and I first came to OBI it was during spring break and it was rainy and dreary. I didn’t think to highly of it. We were invited back for graduation 1982 when all the kids were there. When we went to the cafeteria for lunch the place was buzzing with kids and a food fight broke out. That is when I fell in love with OBI!! Submitted by Roxann Gray May


A few memories of the dining hall from the 1996-1998 era are: Getting to eat in the "faculty" dining room for lunch as a senior- big dogs on campus. Got to drink Tea!! LOL Also- many of us started a food fight, and it was so fun - UNTIL we had to clean the entire dining room before being allowed to go back to class. Spent many a night in late-night study hall (in faculty dining room) till 3am studying for tests as a jr/sr. And "sneaking" down the back stairwell of the girls dorm into the dining room- to get late-night snack of Chocolate milk--yummy! Submitted by Amy Walls



My favorite dessert was at OBI. It had layers of chocolate, cool whip, graham crackers! Submitted by Patrick Rowe 


Eating in the dining hall always helped contribute to the sense of family at OBI. I enjoyed the camaraderie associated with eating in there -- even on days when the food on the menu might not have been my first choice. (Liver and onions!). I remember one day at lunch sitting across the table from Mark Palmieri and saying, "We need to pray for...." a student. He said, "Well, if you feel like we need to pray for them, we need to do it right now!" He reached across the table, took my hands, and prayed for that student right there at the lunch table! Submitted by Cynthia Jones


The house that Archie built, one yeast roll at a time! Archie and Ida "Granny" put so much love into what they did for us. Submitted by Amy Robinson Hargis 
Everything starts in the kitchen. It’s where you learned to work with each other from sloping hogs to snapping string beans it’s where love starts and lasts a lifetime.
Submitted by Wayne Iames Jr.
The most memorable story I have regarding Mr. Underwood and the dining hall revolves around the dining room tables. It was the late 80’s and the school had received a large donation of old army barrack beds frames.  Mr. Underwood had come up with a plan to make dining room tables out of those bed frames in an effort to replace the worn out tables that were being used. I was working in the yard crew shop at the bottom of the hill and built most of those tables each one having to be assembled stained and poly- eurathaned.  They looked nice. Several years after graduating from OBI I had returned for a tour. Mr. Underwood was now the President of the school and on the tour when we had arrived in the dining hall Mr. Underwood pointed me out to the tour and told the story about me building the tables. During the story he mentioned one thing that I had forgotten all about. One night during study hall, Mr. Underwood recalled to the tour that he remembered hearing a loud noise only to look over and see a boy picking himself up off the floor. Mr. Underwood asked what happened, and I explained to Mr. Underwood that the kid was writing on the new table that I had put so much work into making nice. To this day I don’t recall the boys name but, I do recall Mr. Underwood teaching us to take pride in what we accomplish and I guess that’s what I did!  God bless you Mr. and Mrs. Underwood!!! Submitted by Claude Crider, Class of 1990