St. Charles church's free spaghetti dinner re-opens with drive-through

  • The monthly free spaghetti dinner at St. Charles Episcopal Church will return May 31, with drive-through only service.

    The monthly free spaghetti dinner at St. Charles Episcopal Church will return May 31, with drive-through only service. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted5/29/2020 6:00 AM

When things got difficult for families during the recession a decade ago, area churches began offering free monthly meals on various nights. It lifted spirits, brought families together and turned out to be an excellent way to address loneliness for many seniors.

For more than a decade, volunteers at St. Charles Episcopal Church embraced that concept and served free spaghetti dinners to community members who flock to the church on the last Sunday of each month to dine with friends and enjoy a very inexpensive night out.


Like every other community event or gathering, those dinners came to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic led to the shelter-in-place edict.

In fact, had the church been able to host patrons in April, it would have officially marked the 11th year of the dinners.

St. Charles Episcopal started its community dinner around the same time some other churches were doing the same in 2009 or 2010.

When the United Methodist Church of Geneva closed its Third Tuesday Supper early last year after 10 years to take a breather and possibly come up with a different format and recruit new leaders, it showed what a monstrous task it was to carry on an event like this for so long because as many as 500 people would attend each month.

Pandemic or not, St. Charles Episcopal will pick up Sunday, May 31, where it left off before the shutdown -- except the spaghetti dinner is adjusting to the current normal and will hand out dinners like a Portillo's drive-up.

The drive-through-only service starts at 4:30 p.m. and goes until 6:30 p.m., or when workers run out spaghetti.

"We've been serving 150 meals at our monthly dinners, although there are times when we get close to 200," said church publicist Kathy Heikkinen. "We cook for close to 200 and if there are leftovers we take them to Lazarus House (shelter)."

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Dinner organizers Dallas Heikkinen, Kathy Hari and others approached church leaders in March about the idea for a drive-through spaghetti dinner night, but the church was cautious about any events taking place at that time.

"A great deal of thought has been put into social distancing in the kitchen, gathering proper protective equipment for all of the volunteers and keeping the crew to a bare minimum," Kathy Heikkinen said.

Guests are asked to drive their cars into the back parking lot of the church at 994 N. Fifth Ave. and create a line for direct pickup, as no one will be allowed to exit a vehicle.

Church pastor the Rev. Stacy Walker and deacon Steve Lowe will offer a prayer with any guests who want to pull over to the side of the parking lot for a few moments after picking up food, Heikkinen added.


The community dinners offered through our area churches have had a significant impact on area residents for years now, so it's good to see one of them taking these first steps to serve again.

Although the dinners are free, donations are accepted online, or you can mail a check to St. Charles Episcopal Church, 994 N. Fifth Ave., St. Charles, IL 60174.

A new boardwalk:

Funway Ultimate Entertainment Center owner Bob Hansen is getting recognition as the leader in getting the Batavia Boardwalk Shops project rolling along.

He gets a shoutout on the Batavia MainStreet website, while Jamie Saam, the Boardwalk Shops manager for the organization, hosts a nice Facebook video to let everyone know all eight of the shops at corner of Wilson Street and Route 25 are full.

Those new businesses include a pet supplies shop, a men's boutique, a new bakery, a home décor shop, a granola shop, a tapestry shop, a wooden furniture shop, and a Kikki Bowls store.

A week or so ago the shops were having the finishing touches put on them, and a few were prepared for curbside pickup.

Some of the shops were hoping to be open or have some fare ready for the Batavia farmers market, which kicks off its 25th season on Saturday, May 30.

Just routine maintenance:

Though not an expert on the topic of municipal center architecture, I know it when I like something. And I have always thought the St. Charles Municipal Center building is one of the more interesting and attractive I've seen for housing city government.

That has to be what R. Harold Zook out of Chicago and his nephew D. Coder Taylor were thinking when designing the building on the west bank of the Fox River 80 years ago.

Like so many other things in the city, Col. Edward Baker donated the building to St. Charles after it was built on land that his niece Dellora Norris and her husband, Les, owned and also donated.

But it was just last week that I realized when walking through town, that I maybe don't gaze up at the Municipal Building tower often enough. Or, at least, this was the first time in some 40-plus years I can remember seeing scaffolding on the building's peak.

It can't possibly be the first time routine maintenance and cleaning has taken place on the building, but many others I spoke to also had not seen scaffolding in place in the past. But that's what is happening, just a routine checkup, so to speak.

At least my initial question was ruled out by the St. Charles Fire Department. The building was not hit by lightning, so there was no serious damage to address at this time.

Graduates get message:

Area high school graduates aren't likely to look back on 2020 with a great deal of fondness, but they can't deny that the communities they live in rallied around them as best they could.

It has been common to see special events and presentations that recognize their accomplishments and the sacrifices they had to make this year.

Geneva has an all-day "parade" of sorts planned for Sunday, June 7. It is calling for graduates, family and friends to practice social distancing while participating in a "graduate walk" along Third Street. The street will be lined with the 488 graduate photos, and it is likely some graduates will wear their caps and gowns when strolling along the sidewalk with family members.

That's just a cool idea with a clear message. We know it would be easy to just try to forget about what has happened this year, but making an effort to do more when it comes to this year's graduating class says something about the towns we live in.

Now, just don't rain on June 7.

A different dreamscape:

Three years ago, I wrote about a dream analyst informing me why I had a recurring dream, or nightmare, about not finishing a school project on time.

That dream went away after it was explained this occurs if one has a similar fear of failure in other parts of life or work. After all, journalists sort of operate on that edge.

My dreams during the coronavirus quarantine have taken some interesting twists. For example, even if I wake up momentarily during the night, my dream generally picks up right where it left off when going back to sleep.

That's probably from watching more streaming video services these days in which one can pause and come back to the show later. Granted, after just finishing the third season of "Ozark" on Netflix, I should be having nightmares.

One of my latest odd dreams has been fairly easy to analyze.

In this dream, a friend is getting married. I am not positive where this wedding is taking place, but there's a stressful situation hovering over the whole affair -- Nazis are invading the city.

This dream most likely came about from watching the "World on Fire" series on PBS about Polish freedom fighters resisting Nazi aggression. Also, we've had three different families tell us about wedding plans for their children scheduled for June being put off until later this year or even next year.

Put those two things together, and presto, you have an odd coronavirus dream.

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