ST. CHARLES – Crowds gathered Saturday for an outdoor fundraiser for the St. Charles Heritage Center, doing their part to help preserve the city's history by raising money through raffles and bidding in a silent auction.
The gathering, which closed down part of S. Third Avenue for the evening, marked the third annual fundraiser for the organization, which has preserved more than 10,000 photos and 15,000 artifacts related to the history of St. Charles and St. Charles Township.
Natalie Gacek, director of the center, said she expected this year's fundraiser to be the biggest yet, with 150 to 200 people in attendance. She said this year's goal was the raise $24,000 to $25,000 for the museum. The last two fundraisers, which have been more formal gatherings held at different locations, combined helped raise $45,000.
"We are a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, and this fundraiser will account for 25 percent of our overall budget," she said. "It goes to help fulfill our mission, which is collecting, preserving and presenting St. Charles history and programs."
Gacek said this is the first year they've done a pig roast, and it's also the first year that the event has been at the museum, located at 215 E. Main St. The St. Charles Heritage Center has been around for 80 years and it has been in its current location since 2000.
The money helps pay to maintain the museum, Gacek said. It also helps fund museum programming, which includes lectures and educational programs with various entities, such as the St. Charles school district, the library and the convention and visitors bureau.
"We are the only organization that's dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of St. Charles and the township," said Joe Schelstreet, president of the St. Charles Heritage Center's board. "Part of the beauty of the community is its rich history, and that's what we do."
Gacek said some people who visit the heritage center are surprised to learn that for more than 40 years, St. Charles was the "pickle capital of the the world," and said the center carries many pickle-related artifacts and promotional items.
Arvena and Vernon Guynn, who have lived in St. Charles since 1954, said they received a piece of the city's pickle history when they were given an inflatable pickle pool toy from the wife of the Pickle Packers International owner, Bill Moore.
They showed their support for the heritage center for the second year in a row on Saturday.
"It's important to keep, and add, to the things we have here," Arvena Vernon said.
Last year, the center received a desk and chair that belonged to former St. Charles resident Gen. John Farnsworth when he served 150 years ago as a U.S. representative.
Gacek said the non-profit accepts donations year-round. She said anyone interested in donating can call the center at 630-584-6967 or stop into the office.