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‘We just want them to walk out of here and feel good’

More local churches play a role in offering free Thanksgiving meals

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Dr. Mike Shin (from left), Bob Tieman and Dale Tieman helped prepare food for last year’s free Thanksgiving meal at First Congregational Church, Peru.

First Congregational will be hosting its 10th annual community Thanksgiving dinner noon-2 p.m. Thursday.

Do you need a place to go for Thanksgiving? Several local churches are offering free meals on Thanksgiving Day to anyone who wants to come.


Zion United Church of Christ, at the corner of Sixth and Grant streets in Peru, is serving a free meal on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone is invited, and no reservations are necessary. The doors open at 11, and the meal will be served noon-2 p.m.

Pastor Alex Garncarz said last year was the first year the church offered a free meal to the public on Thanksgiving.

“We had a very good turnout, so we’re going to do it again this year,” Garncarz said. “We had about 65 people last year.”

He said last year went well, but he thinks this year will go smoother.

“Last year was sort of our trial-and-error year,” Garncarz said. “We’ve got the details pretty well ironed out.

“We know there are plenty of people who either don’t have a place to be on Thanksgiving Day, someone to spend the day with, or they don’t have the means by which to provide themselves a good Thanksgiving meal,” Garncarz added. “This isn’t just about folks who don’t have the money to provide a meal for themselves. This is also for folks who just don’t have other plans that day, they’re not going to be able to be with family, for whatever the reason, and they just don’t want to be alone on Thanksgiving.”

He said the meal will include normal Thanksgiving food, such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pies.

There will also be a big screen TV showing football and another TV with shows for children.

The church does not need any more food donations. For more information, call the church office at (815) 223-2671.

First Congregational Church, 1431 Fourth St., Peru, is hosting its 10th annual community Thanksgiving dinner noon-2 p.m on Thanksgiving.

Ellen Marincic said the meal’s organizer Dean Tieman realized 10 years ago that there weren’t many dinners available on Thanksgiving Day.

“Our dinner isn’t just for people who can’t afford,” Marincic. “It’s for anyone who doesn’t have family or friends in the area and doesn’t want to sit and have a Thanksgiving meal alone.”

She said more than 100 people usually attend.

Illinois Valley Community Hospital allows the church to use its shuttle van, so the church can go pick up residents from the La Salle high rise and the Peru high rise.

She said they have plenty of food donations, but they could still use volunteers to help serve the food and drinks. People who want to volunteer can call the church office at (815) 223-0722.


Bev Keutzer works at the stove and oven as Zion United Church of Christ, Peru before the free Thanksgiving meal last year.

La Salle

Grace United Methodist Church, 1345 Chartres St., La Salle will host a free Thanksgiving dinner 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday. No registration is required, and everyone is welcome.

Gina Locati, one of the organizers, said this is the first year the church has offered the meal on Thanksgiving Day.

“We want to give back to the community and help those that are in need,” Locati said.

Kerry Dauber, another organizer, said the church does a lot of mission work with its dry pantry and with providing winter clothes.

“I think we’re going to have a very good response,” Dauber said. “We just want to feed them. We just want them to walk out of here and feel good.”

She said the meal will include turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and pies.

Dauber said the church was in need of food and money donations for the dinner. Those interested in donating can call (815) 223-1001 or stop by the church.

“There are a lot of people who come through for food or clothing, when we start talking to them, they really don’t have place to go to make it special on Thanksgiving,” Locati said. “A lot of us have families, we have the means to stay at home and have our own Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of the people we’ve seen that we’ve helped over the years don’t have that. Maybe they’re just home by themselves, and they want to spend a holiday with others and have that fellowship along with some good food.”


Evangelical Covenant Church, 24 N. Main St., Princeton is hosting a free meal noon-2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. New Hope Church of the Nazarene and St. Louis Catholic Church also help organize the meal.

Shirley Peterson said the church has offered a meal for 18 years, and more than 100 people eat at the church or take home carry-outs.

“There are a lot of people who are alone at Thanksgiving. They have no place to go, so they sit at home,” Peterson said.

“We see that they get Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day and provide the food for them. Some of the people have told me that when they come to the church to have the dinner, it’s like coming home.”


Magnolia United Methodist Church is offering a free meal at 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Carry-outs will be available at noon. Large groups should call the church ahead of time at (309) 635-1115.

Bonnie McQuilkin said the church has hosted the meal for several years. It is open to everyone, and about 40 people attended last year.

“For those who don’t have family, we want to be the family,” McQuilkin said.

Brynn Twait can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or Follow her on Twitter @NT_Peru.


Jordan Havlik works as a reporter covering the City of Peru. He can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or
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