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Tribute to Peter Hilton, President Emeritus

Open Table mourns the loss of its former leader Peter Hilton. Thanks to his visionary leadership and compassionate heart, thousands of people in our community were fed and the foundation was formed that allowed us to become an admired regional food relief organization. He died Thursday, October 27th at the age of 78.

Peter served as President of Open Table for twelve years (2002-2013). During that time he made transformative changes resulting in an inclusive, respectful culture that positioned our organization as an innovative leader in the food relief arena.

Peter’s vision to expand to a second location in Maynard did not come without numerous hurdles. His empathetic belief that poverty isn’t town-specific led Open Table to grow beyond the boundaries of Concord. He was adamant that people who were already struggling should not have to endure administrative red-tape to get access to food, reinforcing our “open” core value that “all are welcome, no questions asked.” By the end of Peter’s tenure, people were coming from more than 80 zip codes to receive support, which also included financial aid, school supplies and warm winter clothing.

Always seeking to improve the nutritional value of the pantry food selection, Peter established partnerships with Gaining Ground, Drumlin Farms, and the Greater Boston Food Bank, often driving the U-haul himself to South Boston for the 5000-lb monthly pick-up. These partnerships brought in fresh produce, meat, and dairy which greatly enhanced Open Table’s grocery and dinner offerings. An early proponent of food sovereignty, Peter understood the importance of allowing guests to choose the groceries they wanted, a service that made OT stand out among our peers.

Peter’s infectious optimism made him a magnet for attracting incredible volunteer talent while his compelling leadership style kept the same volunteers engaged – often for well over a decade. His desire for Open Table‘s community dinners to be people’s best meal of the week inspired cooks to showcase their most delicious recipes for clients. Many volunteers noted they never ate so well at home!

Peter knew he needed strategic thinkers on OT’s board who would help establish a long-term plan and locate a permanent home for our organization. With support from Lyn Zubrigg, the Board Chair at the time, they recruited local business people. Peter singlehandedly established a base of loyal donors and his gift for grant writing resulted in donations from many foundations that continue to support Open Table. He was instrumental in helping to build a financial base of support which enabled Open Table to finally make a down payment on the purchase of our own facility.

Peter led with heart and action. There are hundreds of people who were touched by his personal kindness. There were no limits to the magnanimity of Peter’s caring. We salute you, Peter, for instilling us with a legacy of caring that still thrives at Open Table.

An obituary is available on Dee Funeral Home’s site HERE.

Funeral services will be held at at Kerem Shalom, 659 Elm Street, Concord on Monday, October 31, at 10:00 am, followed by burial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The services will be live-streamed on Zoom; HERE is the link. Shiva/reception will take place at Kerem Shalom immediately following the burial. Please note Kerem Shalom’s COVID policy.