ST. CHARLES – Alexander’s Cafe owner Nick Smith likes to give back to the community that he grew up in.
The St. Charles restaurant will serve its third annual holiday meal for guests from Lazarus House at 1 p.m. Dec. 8.
“I grew up in St. Charles, I live in St. Charles and I know about Lazarus House and all the good things they do,” Smith said. “Having a business in St. Charles, I just thought that if we could help in some way, we would.”
Smith also is known for writing and directing the movie “Munger Road,” which was filmed locally.
Lazarus House is a charitable organization based in downtown St. Charles. It offers safe shelter, food and support services to men, women and children connected to St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and western rural Kane County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Lazarus House Executive Director Leanne Deister-Goodwin is appreciative of the restaurant's efforts.
"The Lazarus House guests are thrilled with this invitation!" she said in an email. "It is a luxury to be served in such a way this holiday season. The guests, staff, and board of Lazarus House are incredibly grateful for such hospitality and generosity."
Last year, about 50 people from Lazarus House attended the family-friendly event. Guests are able to order anything from the restaurant’s menu.
“Any kids that show up with their families, we surprise them with a visit by Santa Claus and sing songs,” Smith said. “This time of year, it’s just neat to see families together and enjoying themselves. The kids’ faces light up when they see Santa, which is pretty special, as least from my point of view.”
The restaurant again will have a food, toy and clothing drive to benefit the guests at Lazarus House. People can drop off canned goods, new and gently used clothing and toy gifts at the restaurant through Dec. 8.
In the past, the drive has been met with overwhelming support from the community.
“When the meal is over, they can take everything with them on the bus,” Smith said. “I think last year or the year before that, they just barely had enough room on the bus for everything and all the people.”
The restaurant will remain open at the time of the event so the public can celebrate the holidays with guests from Lazarus House. Smith hopes that the experience will help residents learn more about the people who stay at Lazarus House. “They’re people like you and me,” he said.
Smith lauded the restaurant’s staff and their participation in the event.
“I like helping spearhead this, but really, it’s actually more about our employees,” he said. “We have really, really wonderful employees, from cooks to servers to everybody else. And I think that they get a real sense of pride and it’s a real special opportunity for them. They obviously are doing it because they want to give back to their community just as much as I do. It’s something that we look forward to every year.”