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It’s curtain call for another season of holiday giving with Stage Coach Players, The Salvation Army

Theater troupe collects donations for DeKalb area holiday meals, toys ahead of Thanksgiving, Christmas

Stage Coach Players Outreach Committee members Deb Brubaker, (left) Jan Kuntz and Angela Schiola (right) sort donations and pack bags Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, while collecting donations at the theater in DeKalb for their Thanksgiving food drive. The group is working with the Salvation Army to put together Thanksgiving meals for local families in need.

DeKALB – Volunteers with Stage Coach Players gathered the week leading up to Thanksgiving to collect the final donations needed to help give in-need local families a holiday spread.

The annual collection drive was held by the local theater troupe in partnership with the Salvation Army in DeKalb.

Each Thanksgiving dinner box Stage Coach Players and The Salvation Army provide will include enough food to feed six to eight people and a $20 gift card for a turkey, as well as the following items: stuffing, turkey gravy, whole kernel corn, green beans, dry pinto beans, white rice, canned diced pears, cranberry sauce, hot chocolate and brownie mix.

“I don’t think I’ve known one person that’s shown up today, which means it’s our community that’s really giving back so, and we got quite a few checks,” said Jan Kuntz, a member of the Stage Coach Players community outreach committee.

Individuals who didn’t want to donate food were able to contribute with checks – $35 equaled a fully stocked food box for a family in need. The food drive may have been seasonal, but the giving initiative has been at Stage Coach Players for years – at least since the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

Stage Coach Players Outreach Committee member Jan Kuntz wheels a cart full of donated food items into the theater in DeKalb Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for their Thanksgiving food drive. The group is working with the Salvation Army to put together Thanksgiving meals for local families in need.
Stage Coach Players Outreach Committee member Jan Kuntz wheels a cart full of donated food items into the theater in DeKalb Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for their Thanksgiving food drive. The group is working with the Salvation Army to put together Thanksgiving meals for local families in need.

“When they closed us down, we came in and immediately wiped down the whole building with Lysol and then we tried to think of ways we could help the community,” Gloria Dennison, a self described “longtime Stage Coacher” who’s directed, performed on stage, designed sets and ran the box office for 22 years.

Kuntz said Stage Coach Players decided to hold food drives but in the middle of 2020 – the height of the pandemic, when professional-grade masks were scarce and left for essential workers – homemade masks were commonly used and worn. So the community theater group put on food drives but also gave away masks to those seeking.

Fifteen food pantries had some type of partnership with Stage Coach Players’ food drives during the pandemic, Kuntz said.

“We were here every week during the pandemic, throughout the whole thing,” she said.

When putting on a play to a significantly sized audience wasn’t allowed, Stage Coach Players focused on its charitable efforts.

“It was something we could do to give back to the community that supported us for 75 years,” Dennison said. “But it’s also kept us able to do something because we’re very busy when we get involved with our rehearsals and our shows and then all of the sudden we had we nothing, and so this gave us something to do, too.”

That effort eventually created the Stage Coach Players community outreach committee, something both Kuntz and Dennison are a part of. Two years later, Kuntz said the community theater group also recently held a big food drive at Northern Illinois University.

“We’ve got a nice working relationship with the people at NIU,” Kuntz said.

Stage Coach Players Outreach Committee members Deb Brubaker, (left) Jan Kuntz and Angela Schiola (right) sort donations and pack bags Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, while collecting donations at the theater in DeKalb for their Thanksgiving food drive. The group is working with the Salvation Army to put together Thanksgiving meals for local families in need.

With Thanksgiving donations ready to go, Stage Coach Players already is looking toward its next holiday community outreach initiative. This week starts the beginning of the theater’s giving tree.

“We will have tags for Salvation Army, we’ll have tags for the senior citizens in our community and then we will have a box for our new toys for Toys For Tots,” Kunt said. “So for the next three weeks then we’ll be collecting Christmas items for those different groups.”

Kuntz said the giving tree is akin to The Salvation Army’s giving tree, meant to help provide children and older adults with the opportunity to get something on their wish list.

Donations are due by Dec. 6, Kuntz said.

Some of the items donated to the Stage Coach Players outreach committee at the theater in DeKalb Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for their Thanksgiving food drive. The group is working with the Salvation Army to put together Thanksgiving meals for local families in need.