Barrington church gives thanks by helping those in need
Attendance at St. Michaels Episcopal Church’s free Thanksgiving event has grown from to more than 150 in recent years, including sailors from the nearby Great Lakes Naval Base. | Photo courtesy of St. Michaels
Updated: November 30, 2012 8:12AM
BARRINGTON — Attendance at St. Michaels Episcopal Church’s free Thanksgiving event has grown from roughly 30 area residents during the first dinner seven years ago to more than 150 in recent years.
“Every year, it grows bigger and bigger,” said Tony Stallone, vice president of merchandising at Peapod, a grocery delivery service that has sponsored the event since its inception. “People want a place to go, and I think we’re finding more people who have no place to go. I think it definitely has something to do with the economy.”
St. Michaels parish member Catherine Koelling, who has helped coordinate the dinner every year, said the growth in attendees likely is a combination of the growing need and the church’s continued efforts to reach out to the community during the holidays.
“Anyone we can reach, we try to help,” said Koelling, adding that St. Michaels also delivers about 30 meals to residents a their home.
St. Michaels, 647 Dundee Ave., planned a Thanksgiving Day service at 10:45 a.m. before the dinner at noon.
Many sailors from the nearby Great Lakes Naval Base, some of whom have not seen or talked to their families in weeks, also attend the meal. Koelling said throughout the day, the sailors are allowed to use the phone and Internet to connect with their families.
“It’s a very community-oriented church,” Koelling said. “There’s a lot of outreach.”
Nancy Holmes, St. Michaels’ parish administrator, said the church has started seeing guests coming from neighboring suburbs as well.
“We have folks coming from Schaumburg and Palatine,” she said. “We’re now probably coming up to about 250 meals.”
Mary Bottie, a volunteer with Barrington’s House of Hope, reported that she’s been seeing an increase in area residents using the organization’s food pantry and resale shop.
“We see more of a need for everything,” said Bottie, explaining that programs like government LINK cards only cover food.
“But it’s not just food,” she added. “It’s clothing, diapers and other essentials.”
Bottie said she’s also seeing a rise in the number of volunteers as well.
“I think people are getting more thankful for what they do have,” she said.
There’s been tremendous growth in volunteers donating food to the event, too, Stallone said.
While Peapod donates about 20 turkeys and 70-pound portions of sweet potatoes, broccoli and other items, community members have stepped up and helped by donating food and time to the cause.
“It’s a joy to be part of this event,” he said.
Koelling called the local volunteer turnout very impressive, and reported that the church plans to continue the event in future years.
“There’s a lot of community support,” she said. “We would not be able to do this without the community.”