Victoria Lancour and her kids sample the buffet line July 17 at St. Charles Church. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

If you say “Olive Garden,” they will come.

What started as a charitable idea from a town official in Waterford turned into a four-day dinner event at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 449 Conkey St.

Town of Waterford Supervisor Teri Jendusa-Niccolai called St. Charles Principal Mary McDonald on Friday, and told her she had people ready to cook and deliver food, and they wanted to use the church’s kitchen.

“We called a quick meeting and made some plans to provide access to the kitchen, and we’ve had four nights of wonderful hot meals with home-cooked food,” McDonald said Monday night.

“We wanted to give free meals to those deprived of electricity and haven’t been able to give food. In some cases, we brought food to people, and we rallied a bunch of people to cook and serve.”

Teri Lancour, who has been the “tech” person for many years at St. Charles, took the first call, and the donations poured in.

Bruno’s Restaurant in Waterford provided 10 free pizzas on two different nights, and Roesing Furniture donated money to buy food.

Staff members posted to the church’s Facebook page and the Burlington Buy, Sell, Trade Facebook page to inform more people, and Saturday night’s feast was the most popular.

Olive Garden of Kenosha and Racine combined to give a pasta bowl for 200 people, and more than 200 people showed up Sunday night to feast.

McDonald said about 40 people showed up on both Friday and Saturday, and volunteers delivered 40 meals to homes.

By Sunday, the word got out, and more than 200 people came for Olive Garden.

On Monday, the last night, when much of the power had returned to Burlington residences, another 40 to 50 people showed up for a free meal.

“One table came because they aren’t even back in their own home,” Lancour said. “I told them to please come back each night.”

Home-cooked, balanced dinners of brats, pork chops, beans, casseroles, and plenty of sweets were a hit Monday night, as several tables were occupied.


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While Keri Johnson commented on Facebook that her family appreciated a warm meal after a long day of cleaning up, Carrie Wehner captured the overall feeling of the church’s kind gesture.

“We were so shocked that a family delivered us four meals from Olive Garden,” Wehner said on the Burlington Buy, Sell, Trade Facebook page. “Thank you so much to the family that helped deliver supper to our home, knowing we were unable to go to the church due to the fact we were home cleaning up. That was awesome, and we love Olive Garden.”

Private donations came from as far as Wind Lake, as visitors stopped by to drop off food and beverages.

“We’ve had volunteers from St. Mary’s, St. Thomas in Waterford, the Knights of Columbus, and the community in general in Waterford and Burlington,” McDonald said.

“An opportunity like this is a gift. There’s so many people looking for something to do to help. We have the facility, the people and the food, and we’re glad to put it to use.”

St. Charles Church and school regained power Thursday afternoon, but the adjacent parish offices didn’t get power back until late Friday night.

“It’s just great,” Lancour said. “So many people saw our posts online and said, ‘What can I do?’

As diners finished up around 8 p.m. Monday, there were plenty of leftovers, including hot food, sweets, salad, juice and water.

McDonald said St. Charles gave the remaining goodies to Love Inc., which hosted a free community dinner Tuesday.