Rock Falls man starting a new Turkey Day tradition

Devon Nicklaus (center) and Emily Juist are gearing up to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for 85 people.

ROCK FALLS – It’s been floating around the back of his brain for some time now, and this is the year he’s going to do something about it.

Devon Nicklaus is going to cook Thanksgiving dinner – for 85 strangers.

“I’ve always kind of had an idea of wanting to make meals for families and deliver it to their homes for Thanksgiving,” Nicklaus said Thursday. “That’s whats Thanksgiving is all about to me.”

The 34-year-old budding philanthropist was all prepared to do everything out-of-pocket, but he knew that if he was going to cook for a crowd, he was going to need a bigger kitchen than the one in his Rock Falls home, so he called Krista Morthland, director of the Greater Sterling Development Corp.’s Kitchen Incubator of Northwest Illinois.

Not only did Morthland agree to let Nicklaus and his sous-chef/girlfriend, Emily Juist, have free run of the facilities, she also pointed him in the direction of what turned out to be a cascade of community assistance.

The Sauk Valley Food Bank provided turkey, ham and veggies; Walmart has promised side dishes; and the Whiteside County Senior Center, United Way of Whiteside County, the Regional Office of Education and the YWCA helped Nicklaus find contacts and families who could use a holiday helping hand.

He has 16 families to serve.

The menu will be familiar Turkey Day comfort food: turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie, Nicklaus said.

“Just a nice traditional meal, nothing extravagant. Just something that will fill their tummies.”

Nicklaus owns a construction and air duct-cleaning company, Nicklaus Construction, and Emily, 30, who’s originally from Clinton, Iowa, really knows her way around a kitchen.

She owns Tastefully Baked, an at-home custom bakery in Rock Falls. She’s in charge of the pumpkin pies.

Family and friends also will roll up their sleeves and help with the prep work Wednesday night and the cooking on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanks to the surprising amount of generosity he’s encountered, he’s got all the food he needs for this year. No further donations are necessary, Nicklaus said.

“At this point we’re pretty much covered,” he said. “I was going to take the financial brunt of it, but with donations, it’s working out pretty well.

“It really is to cool to see how much the community is willing to help as long as you’re willing to ask.”

Nicklaus wasn’t looking for any publicity, and Morthland was impressed with his sincerity and his earnest desire to help and turned to Sauk Valley Media for a little publicity for his effort.

If this year is any indication, however, this likely will become a new Thanksgiving tradition for Nicklaus and Juist.

“It’s turning out to be a pretty big thing,” Nicklaus said. “We’ll see how it goes after this.”

Nicklaus’ desire to help just may be in his nature, or maybe a result of his nurture, or probably both.

He is the son of Brett and Julie Nicklaus, who own Trinity Financial is Dixon and are well known for their own charitable works, including the creation of Trinity Cares, a nonprofit foundation that raises money to get area veterans on Honor Flights. The business also sponsors Bags for the Brave, another Honor Flight fundraiser.

Another free dinner

Brett and Julie Nicklaus also volunteer at Harvest Time Bible Church’s annual free community Thanksgiving dinner, served at the church at 1802 Dixon Ave. in Rock Falls.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Thursday and dinner is served from noon to 1:30 p.m. Delivery is available in Sterling and Rock Falls for those who can’t make it to the church; orders must placed by Monday at 815-626-1234 or at

Curbside pickup also is available is from 10 to 11 a.m., and registration also is required by Monday.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.