ROCHELLE — Kim Dewey had her hands full Wednesday night.
When she wasn’t feeding spoonfuls of spaghetti to her 14-month old son, Jack, the Davis Junction woman was overseeing the dessert table at the 18th annual Focus House fundraiser. Dewey was one of 30 people throughout the northern Illinois area, mostly from Rochelle and Ogle County, who volunteered their services for the night.
“I think Focus House is a great cause,” another long-time volunteer, Mike Rogers, said.
“It’s very important we keep this going,” first time volunteer, Jennifer Thomason, added. “Focus House is changing a lot so it’s important for the community to know what great work they do here.”
According to first year Focus House director Brenda Mason, approximately 400 people participated in last Wednesday’s event, including 350 who ate in the school gym and another 56 who ordered take-out. Altogether, they raised about $3,800, a little less than last year’s total of $3,836.
Of this year’s total money raised, $700 came from the Hub City Cruisers, with the stipulation that it go specifically towards the jobs program in honor of Don Burke. The two silent auction items that brought in the most money were the beautiful stained glass window made by staff member Jeff Sundberg and a large seed package.
“It was wonderful,” Mason said of the whole thing. “I am extremely grateful for the community’s support. We have expanded our services to an alternative program, so help is needed more than ever.”
Mason admitted she wasn’t sure how the evening was going to turn out at first. “I was concerned,” she said. “During the day, it was raining and sleeting, but it didn’t stop anyone from coming out.
Mason said proceeds of the evening will go towards “anything the kids need.” As it has since 1975, the mission of Focus House, located at 3279 Ill. Highway 251, is “to provide a safe, nurturing, and structured environment for youth” between the ages of 12 and 18.
“The programs here are so amazing,” Dewey said.
Like many of the volunteers, Dewey has a professional, if not a personal, connection to Focus House. After teaching at Focus House for 10 years, Dewey is currently teaching special education at Rochelle Township High School. In August, she will transfer back to Focus House.
“This is like a social occasion,” Becca Moser said of the benefit, adding that it’s a chance to enjoy good food and good companionship.
Known as “Mrs. Bread,” because that’s what she handles in the kitchen, Moser and Mike Rogers have worked at every fundraiser since the first one in 2002.
“I think Focus House offers a great course,” Rogers said, between stirring huge pots of spaghetti. “I’d hate to see it leave Rochelle.”
As one of “the noodle guys,” Rogers said they handled 100 pounds of pasta. “We’ve never run out, but we’ve had a scare or two,” he said. “The biggest fear is not being able to keep up when we get a big rush.”
With a laugh, Rogers said he had another scare of sorts when he took a mid-afternoon nap, which he overslept, causing him to be about 15 minutes late.
Whether he was supposed to reveal it or not, Rogers said the kitchen used Gale Fader’s sauce recipe, which was a big hit with everyone who tasted it.