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Coeur d’Alene man bringing people together through Monday Night Dinners in backyard, now offering meals in parks, cruise ships

As North Idaho’s population continues to increase, Coeur d’Alene’s Adam Schlüter has created a bonding avenue within his community, a beloved concept that he hopes can be applied to many different cultures and communities worldwide: a potluck dinner with live music and fellowship.

Monday Night Dinners originated when Schlüter lived in St. Louis, and his mother would organize a dinner each Monday to keep the family close. She began inviting strangers to have dinner with her family and has now hosted these dinners for nearly 30 years.

Schlüter moved to Coeur d’Alene with a woman he intended to marry, but instead endured a “very bad breakup.” He was depressed and isolated, not knowing many people in the area, with the rest of his family still residing in St. Louis. This was when Schlüter began hosting biweekly Monday night dinners in his backyard, inviting strangers for a night of creating meaningful relationships.

Years later, Schlüter is set to host the 78th Monday Night Dinner and the first of 2024, which will take place Monday at McEuen Park in Coeur d’Alene.

“I started inviting strangers to my house for no other reason than I needed it,” Schlüter said. “We started with 11 people, but now we average about 150. We’re not trying to make them as big as we can; it’s about intimacy. Our mission is to allow people a space to feel seen and heard.”

The highest attendance Schlüter has hosted at a single dinner was 250. He says that is basically the maximum capacity of his backyard. However, he will never turn away guests and hopes to raise enough money to buy the property next to his house to double capacity.

Schlüter lived in Mexico for four years and says that despite facing poverty, everyone has each other’s backs in Mexico.

“In Mexico, you always know your neighbors,” Schlüter said. “You always live in a community, so no matter what you’re going through, you never feel alone. In America, we’re very comfortable, and if you’re really struggling, you can become isolated.”

Schlüter says he would not be able to host so many people without the help of his many volunteers.

“After COVID, everyone knew more than ever that we’d need human connection,” Schlüter said. “My advice to others is to just be yourself, leave your comfort zone and talk to people face to face. A lot of people look at social media and think that they are the only ones struggling, which is obviously not true.”

Schlüter asks that guests bring a side dish and $10 to help pitch in for various costs. Schlüter makes zero profit from these dinners – all the money is used to pay for the live bands, portable toilets and other miscellaneous expenses.

“Everybody pitches in, and we all pay for it together. Some people pay $5 and some pay $200,” Schlüter said. “The cool thing about these parties is that it’s not my thing; it’s the community’s thing. We want to be an active, integral part of the community.

“The community is never going to stop because it’s not about us; it’s about making the world feel seen and know they are loved and cared about.”

A new concept that Schlüter has created is the cruise line dinner. His goal has been to extend gatherings like Monday Night Dinners worldwide. He realized a cruise was the perfect opportunity to make connections with strangers of different interests and backgrounds.

After introducing himself to various strangers on a cruise, Schlüter invited each of them to have dinner with him that night. This created an opportunity for relationships to be formed among all of the strangers that Schlüter invited.

Monday Night Dinners recently partnered with Celebrity Cruises to sail across the ocean with 3,000 people from 77 different countries.

He hopes to create a ripple effect and further grow his movement to unite people.

A perfect example of his hard work paying off can be observed in Denny Lundholm. Lundholm lost her husband to COVID and did not go to any public gatherings until she heard that she and her late husband’s favorite band, Zonky Jazz Band, would be performing live at a Monday Night Dinner. Lundholm attended the dinner and continued to attend them afterward.

In fact, Lundholm met a man at Monday Night Dinner with whom she is now dating and traveling the world. Stories like these are what motivate Schlüter to continue his community outreach.

“We don’t actively work to make them as big as possible, but we also never want to make them exclusive; it’s kind of a fine line between the two,” Schlüter said. “Even if we’re wall to wall in my backyard, we’re never going to turn down anyone.”

“We’re just trying to bring these dinners out of the backyard and into other places in the community,” Schlüter continued. “We’ve reached the capacity of my backyard, so we had to find a bigger venue for this one dinner. The city is going to help us by giving us a permit and a space. We have partnered with local libraries, and we are going to donate some of the proceeds to these libraries.”

He encourages anyone and everyone to come to McEuen Park on Monday.

“Anybody can do what I do,” Schlüter said. “The world needs things like this more than ever. During the current mental health crisis, people are desperate for genuine connection more than anything else.”

For information and invites for Monday Night Dinners, go to the Monday Night Dinners Facebook page or visit

Liam Bradford's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.