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Diederich Foundation provides Thanksgiving dinner to 100 families

  • Jeff Diederich, right, hands a dinner box to Lee, a favorite visitor to Heaven's Kitchen. "This is great," said Lee, as he accepted the box to carry home. "I'm happy."

    Jeff Diederich, right, hands a dinner box to Lee, a favorite visitor to Heaven's Kitchen. "This is great," said Lee, as he accepted the box to carry home. "I'm happy."
    Holly Kee photo

  • The Diederich family works together to pack 100 boxes, each containing the essential elements of a Thanksgiving dinner.

    The Diederich family works together to pack 100 boxes, each containing the essential elements of a Thanksgiving dinner.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Michael Diederich, left, helps his mom, Margaret, pack dinner boxes that were given to 100 area families on Monday from the Diederich Foundation.

    Michael Diederich, left, helps his mom, Margaret, pack dinner boxes that were given to 100 area families on Monday from the Diederich Foundation.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 11/25/2020, 11:55 AM

MARION -- Thanks to the Diederich Foundation, 100 Marion families will have the makings for a Thanksgiving dinner they can prepare together.

That's fitting, since Jeff Diederich, his wife, Margaret, and their children, Sarah, Paula and Michael gave out the donations.

"Giving back to the community is something Margaret and I feel strongly about," said Jeff. "We teach that lesson to our kids by doing and by involving them in our community efforts."

Part of those efforts include following the lead of the Fowler Bonan Foundation and bringing Heaven's Kitchen to Marion. The Diederich family is there each week, serving, cooking, or cleaning up.

That program offers a hot meal each week to anyone that comes through the door. It is usually a sit-down meal with local musicians providing entertainment.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced a "stay at home" order in Illinois in March, Jeff knew that he was not going to give up on serving those who had come to rely on the weekly meal.

"I was not giving up," he said, converting to a curbside pick up and adding an additional sack lunch for the patrons.

As part of Heaven's Kitchen, Jeff joined with the city of Marion and more than 200 volunteers last year to host a community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Pavilion.

"We served nearly 2,000," he said. "It was an amazing effort by everyone involved."

Plans were already underway for this year's dinner but the recent mitigations shut that down.

"We first thought of trying to do a pick up," said Jeff, "but we just don't believe we can keep the volunteers safely distanced."

Disappointed, he is quietly throwing financial support to a couple of smaller community efforts that will feed those in need, but he wanted to do more.

"I know there are people out there, especially families with kids, that will fall through the cracks," he said. "Margaret and I wanted to do what we could to help, especially during this time where so many people are out of work."

Jeff spoke to John Holst, the pastor at Marion's Zion Lutheran Church, asking him to speak to other church leaders and identify families in need.

On Monday, Jeff and his family were set up in the parking lot of The Hideout, the restaurant he owns that is temporarily closed as it undergoes renovations following a fire last February.

The Diederichs were all smiles as they handed out 100 meal kits consisting of turkey, dressing, vegetables, rolls, and even desserts handmade by Margaret and her daughters.

As the family worked together, with the help of a some close friends, they spoke about the project.

"Some of my favorite memories are of my family around the table," said Sarah Diederich, the oldest of Diederich's children. "I hope we can provide that for other families."

The youngest, Michael, also spoke about Monday's event.

"I think it's important so that everybody can have food to eat on their table," he said.

Jeff said he is thankful to be in a position to help others.

And he is already looking forward to next year's dinner.