Flamingos doing good on Fox Valley lawns

To help finance the annual summer mission trip, one St. Charles youth group is drawing on the fundraising power of some 1950s-era cultural icons.

Maybe you’ve seen them around; a lawn full of pink flamingos is hard to miss.

Jim Best, youth director at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, has accumulated 40 of the kitschy, plastic birds, assigning them to four flocks of 10 each. For $20, you can rent a flock to roost in the yard of, well, anyone whose yard you think needs “decorating.”

And if you’re the person who wakes to find your own lawn pretty in pink? Rest assured, the colony will be gone after four days, but you might like to know who put a hit on your yard. That information is available — for a fee, of course.

Best said about half the homeowners whose lawns are visited pay the $10 to find out who tagged them. Add that amount to what the solidly-booked flocks are bringing in just by being there, and the Baker youth group is banking about $100 every four days.

“The kids love it because they feel like they’re being mischievous and being sneaky,” Best said.

“For me, it’s getting to spend that extra time with the kids doing something goofy,” he said. “Every four nights I’m getting to spend a couple hours with three or four kids as we’re running around, and getting to bond a little bit more with these kids.”

Working in the late evening hours, the team is usually able to sneak on and off a property without being noticed. When they do get caught, protocol is to smile and wave, but that routine doesn’t work on everyone.

“One house had a small daughter who was like, she did not want (the flamingos) in the yard,” Best said. “She was pulling them up and trying to give them back to us.”

Security guards can be even more daunting than a 4-year-old.

“We were doing a delivery up in Elgin, and it was a gated community,” Best said. “We’re pulled up to the security shack. They wouldn’t let us in, but looking at MapQuest, we found another way into the subdivision. We managed to sneak into the subdivision and plant the flamingos.”

Mission accomplished.

Along with an available flock, the kids also plant a sign identifying Baker youth as the culprits and posting Best’s phone number, (630) 881-4338, for anyone who wants to hire the birds.

“People see the signs and call us, so we’re getting money from outside the church and not always hitting up the same people, like most fundraisers do,” Best said. He considers that another plus for this kind of project.

A flier placed in the homeowner’s door explains more fully that it’s all part of a mission trip fundraiser. Best said he’ll be taking about 30 youth to help Blue Rose Mission do home repairs this summer for needy families in Mansfield, Ohio.

The Eucharist, gluten-free: You may not give much thought to what’s in your communion wafer, but people who suffer from celiac disease or other severe food sensitivities are paying close attention.For those who are better off without wheat, St. Charles Episcopal Church now offers gluten-free communion.#147;We have two people who take advantage of it,#148; said the Rev. Bill Nesbit, rector, adding that he believes that number will increase as more people become aware they have an option at the altar.#147;I think it is an important option for people who suffer from celiac disease, so they feel they are still part of the community,#148; Nesbit said. #147;If you have celiac #133; you have to be #8212; pardon the expression #8212; religious about it.#148;The gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye can lead to a number of complications for sensitive stomachs. An estimated three million Americans suffer from celiac disease, according to of rice and potato flours, gluten-free wafers are appropriate for a number of food allergies, too.But there are considerations. Gluten-free wafers can#146;t be in the same container as regular wafers, Nesbit said, to prevent cross-contamination. That makes the logistics a little tricky at the altar rail, where communicants who want gluten-free have to ask for it.Nesbit assumes they would be more comfortable if they didn#146;t have to state their preference out loud, however, and hopes to find a way to accomplish that.#147;It#146;s not as elegant as I#146;d like,#148; he said. #147;We may in the future go completely gluten-free because there#146;s some pretty good gluten-free bread out there.#148;Outdoor worship: Located in the heart of Geneva#146;s Third Street shopping district, Geneva Lutheran Church is worshipping outside this month, so long as the weather cooperates.Beginning last weekend and continuing through June 26, the 9 a.m. service will focus on #147;Everyday Blessings,#148; with a specific theme each week. On June 5, bring extra produce you might have to share; on June 12, consider riding your bike to worship.Children are invited to dress as a favorite provider or protector on Father#146;s Day, June 19. After the June 26 service, you can stay put for the Swedish Days parade that passes in front of the church.Dress casually, and don#146;t forget your blankets and lawn chairs!Ÿ #147;In the Spirit#148; covers churches and synagogues in the Fox Valley area; contact to submit information or ideas for upcoming columns.