February 12, 2017

Some pasta, a hearty meat sauce.  A nice salad with Italian dressing.  Two slices of Milano bread with two pats of butter.

It’s a simple meal, but a perfect one.  Since 2005, St. Raymond School has served more than 25,000 meals just like that through our annual Spaghetti Dinner.

Our first Spaghetti Dinner was in 2005.  As school fundraisers go, this wasn’t the most original idea, but we figured people have to eat.  So we modeled our dinner after the Joliet Exchange Club’s and even got the Moose Lodge to loan us their facility since the Commons was still under construction.

We spent a lot of time planning (meatballs or meat sauce?), organizing and promoting that first dinner.  What we didn’t do was plan for the whole parish to show up.  By the time the dinner hour rolled around, we had people shoulder-to-shoulder in the Moose lobby.  The people in the kitchen were holding their own, but there was no traffic flow to get folks in and out of the dining room.  Thankfully, everyone was wonderfully good natured about it…And even more thankfully, we had the Commons for the next dinner.

Once we had room to spread out, the committee really fine-tuned the system.  Our spaghetti team is a well (olive) oiled machine.  Every space and every person is used to maximum efficiency.  And one of my favorite parts is that the same people do the same jobs year after year.  (Sorta like how people sit in the same pew every Sunday…)  A few highlights:

Our Spaghetti Angels:  When we first started, we knew the sauce had to be authentic, so we went to see the fine folks at the American Italian Cultural Society.  They have their own Spaghetti Dinner (second Thursday of the month—go!), but were still willing to make our sauce.  This kindness--done year after year—truly is a remarkable gift.

The Dads in the Back Room:  About 10 years ago, we bought a used spaghetti cooker from St. Anthony Parish.  Every Spaghetti Dinner morning, it gets rolled from the rectory garage to the back room behind the kitchen.  It’s filled with water and powered up with a propane tank.  Once the water is boiling, there are three      chambers in which to cook the pasta. …at least I think that’s how it works.  The Dads don’t want a lot of company or direction.  They got this.

Best Bakers in Town:  Every year the committee puts out an  appeal for bakery donations, and we are gifted with the most    gorgeous and delicious delicacies.  You can tell our bakers bring their “signature”  dishes…the ones they always bring to the best parties.  This sale alone makes more than $1,000 each year for the school.  (Yes, they need bakers for next week!)

Maria and Tanja:  Maria Acosta and Tanja Conte are synonymous with the Spaghetti Dinner.  They have been at the helm for every one of  our 13 dinners…and they will be at the helm on Friday,   February 24—for the last time.  Both of their youngest children (who were toddlers when this all began) are graduating  from St. Raymond School this spring, so Maria and Tanja will step aside—but not away—f0or new leadership.

We are incredibly grateful for Maria and Tanja’s dedication to this fundraiser.  For the Acostas and the Contes, this was always a  family affair with spouses, parents and kids drafted to help.  For both of them, it really is a labor of love and of hospitality. 

Next Friday night, when they finally sit down to eat a plate of  spaghetti (with the last of the sauce scraped from the pot), I hope they have a toast to all they accomplished.  Not only has this made a significant financial contribution to the school, the Spaghetti    Dinners have become a wonderful community event.  We are   grateful for their leadership!

Mark your calendar! The Spaghetti Dinner is a week from Friday—see the ad on page 6.  Plan to come for lunch or dinner.  There’s even drive-up service if you prefer--and don’t forget the bakery!

One last point:  This year, the Spaghetti Dinner committee is  raffling off two nights in St. Louis and a pair of tickets for a Cubs/Cardinals game for dates in May or September. Raffle tickets are $25 each.  Check out straymond.net/school for details.

Mangia! Mangia! Pasta!

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development
815-722-6653, extension 242





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