GENEVA – Food pantries and shelters often struggle just to provide basic needs to those they serve.
It would seem unheard of to offer their clients a steak and lobster dinner with musical entertainment – yet that is what St. Peter Catholic Church in Geneva provided to about 300 people on July 28.
“It is a Community Friends Banquet,” said the Rev. Jonathan Bakkelund, pastor at St. Peter’s. “I learned about it at a clergy conference last winter. A priest from New Jersey mentioned pampering them for the evening.”
Bakkelund said the church’s outreach ministry sought attendees who use the food pantry or get services from shelters such as Lazarus House in St. Charles and Hesed House in Aurora.
The estimated cost was $10,000 if 400 people were to attend, Bakkelund said.
“The church will pay for whatever the volunteers don’t raise,” Bakkelund said.
Rev. Jared Twenty and Chris Lincoln provided the musical entertainment during the dinner, Bakkelund said.
Twenty was formerly an associate pastor at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Batavia, but now serves as spiritual director at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock. Lincoln is a deacon at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Huntley.
Chef Alex Browning, owner of Sanctus Catering, provided the food and cooking. He donated his labor, and received help from volunteers.
The dinner also included baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, garlic green beans, rolls and butter, and cake, Browning said.
“It’s an amazing event to be a part of,” Browning said. “As humans, we are called to help those who are less fortunate than us and it’s my pleasure to be able to help with this event.”
Leanne Deister-Goodwin, Lazarus House executive director, said 23 adults and 11 children who are residents there attended the special dinner.
“When we received the call that this was happening, it really warmed our hearts,” Deister-Goodwin said. “It is that special thing that is the pampering that just doesn’t happen at a time of crisis. I think it’s a great way for the community to love on these folks. … I call it Christmas in July.”
Parishioner Colette McKenna, who coordinated the dinner, said about 50 volunteers helped with setup, serving and greeting the guests.
“They are just excited to help … and serve,” McKenna said.