An annual free Thanksgiving feast offered to the community by St. Charles-based Lazarus House is no small undertaking.
It’s been a major task for several months for Anne Stephans, new volunteer and special events coordinator at the non-profit agency. She’s armed with spreadsheets detailing needs for utensils, paper towels and aluminum foil and signup sheets for turkeys, stuffing and potatoes as deadlines arrive and the holiday nears.
Most of the year, Lazarus House aids men, women and children who are homeless or in danger of becoming by offering food, shelter and support services.
But on Thanksgiving, the focus is on the community when the agency invites anyone in the area to a free holiday potluck-style dinner. The feast, attended by more than 300 guests, has become the traditional family meal for many who live by themselves or do not have family in the area.
“We are extremely grateful to those individuals who want to attend the festivities and give the gift of community by being there,” Stephans said. “That is just as important.”
The dinner, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Salvation Army Tri-Cities Corps facility at 1710 S. 7th Ave., would not be possible without dozens of volunteers who lend a hand before, during or after.
“We have such a generous community,” she said. “Our volunteers are the biggest reason why Lazarus House can be successful and operate smoothly so that it can help so many people who walk through our doors.”
Members of fraternal organizations help roast the 60-plus turkeys, Boy Scout and Girls Scout troops create placemats and other groups make floral arrangements. Others work at the doors to accept food donations on Thanksgiving morning to take inside.
“They don’t even have to get out of their car,” Stephans said.
Volunteers are also needed to greet guests and restock the buffet tables while others eat and mingle and then help out in other ways.
Started in 1997, Lazarus House is the only shelter available in the Tri-Cities area/western rural Kane County area.
It also offers a transitional house program and an outreach program that provides rent, mortgage and utility assistance to qualifying households when grant funds are available.
In fiscal year 2015, the average number of guests each night at Lazarus House was 51.
From July 2015 to June 2016, 233 men, women, and children were provided shelter and support services.
For this year’s feast, the group seeks donations of potato dishes, stuffing, vegetable dishes, salads, cranberries, whipped cream, butter, half and half, coffee, juice, water, soda, ice, and desserts.
Food dishes should be delivered on Thanksgiving Day and be ready to serve in a disposable container approximately 15 to 30 minutes prior to the meal, which begins at noon.
Other needed supplies include wide aluminum foil, large disposable aluminum pans, Styrofoam cups, white round and rectangular plastic table cloths, paper towels, 33-gallon or larger garbage bags and Clorox cleanup spray.
Non-food items can be delivered to the shelter at 214 Walnut St. in St. Charles.
For more information or to volunteer email Stephans at email@example.com or call (630) 587-2144.
— Lazarus House volunteers put the giving in holiday free feast —–