February 25, 2014
A few years back, I was approached by Dick Tobiason, a local retired officer and head of the Heroes Foundation, to assist in raising funds for the Honor Flights. The Honor Flights are trips to Washington DC for WW2 veterans to see the Memorial there. It is actually more about honoring the veterans than it is just getting them there. All along the way, they are acknowledged and honored. I have talked with many of the men and women who have gone and all seem giddy with excitement afterwards.
I told Dick that I could not help with what I would call a large fund raising situation but I could certainly put together something that the local every day person could get involved with and could help raise funds. This sort of event does two things. It raises funds for the donor and allows people who want to help and yet cannot afford to dole out $50 or more a plate to be a part of the event.
After talking it over with Jimmy, I suggested a Spaghetti feed and allow Jake's to be the venue and the first Spaghetti feed was created. The cost was $10 per head. It made the math much easier. If I brought in 100 customers, than we would raise $1000 dollars. That became my goal. The first year, we raised a bit over $2000, if I recall.
It was so successful, that I had other groups coming to me and asking me to run one for them. I knew that having too many would just dilute the mix, so I decided that the Heroes foundation would be the only recipient and that we would not do more than one per year.
That was six years ago or so.....I tend to lose count.
I awoke Sunday morning a little unsure of myself. It is typical for me on days of these sorts of events. All the last minute thoughts of what can go wrong and the anxiety that I battle began to wrap my mind a bit. But distractions help me with that and I had one this morning in my grandson, Jayden.
Jay had spent the weekend with us as his mom was over in Eugene attending the Justice conference there.
Jay had LaCrosse training this morning and so we got up early and drove down to the diner to have a bit of breakfast first. One of our waitstaff was sick so we did some shifting around which always causes a bit of distraction in the flow of things. We began to get busy just as Jay needed to go to LaCrosse. He asks me on the way over if I would stay and watch. My heart sunk in telling him that I could not. I wanted so much to watch him but knew that I was needed back at the diner. I figured that I might be able to get back to watch a bit towards the end, especially if Judy was there watching the diner.
But, as it was, Judy was a bit late as she also had an extra mouth to feed at the house with Carrie and Jay's dog, Lola who was at Grandma and Grandpa's resort and spa.
I actually tried to get out a bit early, but a full pass bar of food held me up. I arrived just as Jay got finished and ended up taking him back to the house so he could shower up. I told him that I would come get him at lunch.
I then headed back to the diner where all was in full force. Judy was helping at the pass bar so I did what I normally do, pour coffee and put out fires. I suddenly began to feel weak as if my blood sugar was down so I grabbed a cheese sandwich and downed it. I also exited the pressure and went out to the office and the unending stack of paperwork that is always needed.
The next few hours became a blur of sorts with the office work, helping out front, picking up Jay and bringing him back down, and all the other parts of running a fast paced diner. Judy and I sat down for a little lunch and a dark chocolate but I soon ejected back to the office to finish things there.
I got a call from my mom asking me to help her with a jar. Dad wanted some juice and she could not get the top off. I drove over and helped her. Even I had a problem with one of the lids so I wondered how she could be expected to open that bottle of juice. I asked her if she wanted me to bring her some spaghetti later. "Shh", she said, "I want to go to the potluck tonight". She felt that Dad would not want to go if he knew about the spaghetti. I smiled and headed back to the diner.
I was really feeling tired and weak so I just stayed in the office as things began to wind down for the day out front. Judy and I talked and I put my legs up on the trash can and was soon off to sleep. Judy left the office quietly and I probably would have been there for a while except the door swung open and in walked Jimmy. He wanted to go over last minute details and thoughts of how to make the flow better. We had no idea how many were to show up, so I had Jimmy prepare for around 300. Last year, we had prepared for 150 and actually had to take some of our stock out to finish off.
The restaurant closed and people began to show up as volunteers for the spaghetti event. Judy helped to coordinate them so that sort of freed me up and I was still feeling a bit weak so I went back to the office.
Judy came out and got me as there was one table left in the diner who was still sitting after their meal. We needed to cash them out so we could get the diner closed and ready for the event. I came out to find the door crowded with customers waiting for the big event. Nothing could happen until we got that last table done.
One of the waitstaff was already talking to them and she secured the payment. I helped Sam, our cashier close out his till and made the area ready for Richard, our volunteer cashier for the feed. What seemed like hundreds of eyes stared at us as we readied the counter to receive their payment and stamp their hands. Some pleading, some angry, some frustrated, some happy, and others just staring and watching.
Soon, the mob was released and the diner began to fill with customers. I spent my time helping organize seating and letting people know that they would not be able to sit just two to a table. Others would be there sitting with them. That is the only way this event could be pulled off. Most were happy with that idea. It even changes the whole atmosphere. It is about getting together, having fun, and raising money for a good cause.
As the room filled, I checked all exits to insure that we had all of our bases covered in case of an emergency. As I walked through the room, I looked for WW2 guys who I could talk with of the up coming event in April. The Oregon Ducks are going to open up one of their practices to us again. Last year, that happened and it was quite an event.