There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, and on Thanksgiving Day, St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Downers Grove plans to serve one up hot to anyone in their community.
“We’re making sure to spread this message that people can come — it doesn’t matter who you are, your situation — you’re welcome,” said Catherine Tecktiel, the dinner’s organizer. “You might just want to come here and spend time with a nice group of people, or can’t afford to purchase, your family’s not around, there’s no place you call home. No matter your story or where you’re coming from, this is one place we can all come be together and share a meal.”
St. Andrews strives to create an environment for the dinner that feels like home. Instead of scooping food for each guest, volunteers sign up to be servers, taking people’s orders, which are served on china with real silverware, and brought to their tables, which are donned in real table clothes.
“One of the main goals is for this to feel as much like a homecooked meal as possible,” she said. “[…] We want to make sure it doesn’t feel like a machine or assembly line.”
While the dinner has “always been a part of who the church is,” Tecktiel said she’s seen it grow extensively in the eight year’s she has coordinated it, primarily due to a lack of similar events in their community.
“What started happening was some organizations or restaurants stopped offering low cost or free meals for some reason,” she said. “And a lot no longer offered them on thanksgiving itself. So we asked: How can we as a church community step forward to meet this need for our community family members?”
At first, it was mostly parishioners who came to eat. But as publicity got out, more people showed up, leading to more hams and turkeys being made each year and an uptick in volunteers from the community.
“We actually have a waiting list because so many people want to volunteer,” Tecktiel said. “What a fantastic problem to have, that we have too many people from the community that want to help.”
When she started, roughly 60 people showed up. Last year, she said St. Andrews served nearly 200 people.
“[This dinner] is about understanding the great need in our own backyard for help and assistance and for anything like this,” Tecktiel said. “I think people think, ‘Oh this doesn’t happen in DuPage County; we don’t have people in need here.’ But we do. I want people to understand that this event just is a way we can make this visible.”
Published by Suburban Life, Nov. 20, 2019