Volunteers prepare for Free Community Picnic, Aug. 21

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The second annual “Free Community Picnic” to help kick off the new school year will take place Monday, Aug. 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. The picnic is held in the greenspace next to United Church of Monticello on N. Chestnut St.

   This event would not be possible without the generous food, supply, and monetary donations from local churches, businesses, and individuals.

   All ages are invited to attend the picnic. The evening’s menu will include: hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, apples, cookies, ice cream, lemonade and water.

   The meat will be grilled by the Jones County Beef Producers.

   In addition to the picnic, volunteers will be personally delivering free food that evening to the teachers and staff at Shannon and Carpenter Elementaries, Monticello Middle School, Monticello High School, and Sacred Heart School during the open house events.

   “That was Kelly Luckstead’s idea,” credited Martin. “We wanted to do something to show our appreciation of the teachers as well.”

   The idea for the Community Picnic came about from a similar event hosted by the Coralville Food Pantry. Volunteer Janet Martin worked with the food pantry back when she was involved with 4-H.

   “We thought a free community meal was a good thing to try in Monticello,” she suggested.

   “It’s something small we can do to try and make a positive impact on the community,” added volunteer Keith Stamp.

   Last year’s Community Picnic was a hit with a huge crowd of people from all walks of life, from every corner of the community. Volunteer Milt Luckstead said that was the hope.

   Martin joked the smoke from the grill wafting from “main hill” toward the downtown was their best form of recruitment last year to attract people.

   Both Martin and Stamp said churches on their own can’t host such large events without overusing their volunteers and church members. By bringing forces together, the volunteer pool is bigger.

   “Other churches are helping in a variety of ways,” added Stamp, “from supplying volunteers, to making cookies, and offering donations.”

   Already, the committee has 1,000 cookies committed for Aug. 21.

   “We don’t want to run out of cookies,” promised Martin.

   With any event, it’s important to have goals set out. The Free Community Picnic:

   • Encourages conversations and connections between community members

   • Develops cooperation and partnership between the United Church, other churches in the community, the food pantry, businesses, and organizations

   • Provides a free nutritious and delicious meal for community members

   • Kicks off the school year to support “back to school” efforts for the youth, parents, and teachers

   “Last year,” Martin shared, “it was so neat to see people talking together and having a great time; from the kids to senior citizens.”

   Stamp said it was also good to see diversity represented as well.

   That’s what also led to the decision to make this event free to all attendees.

   “We want everyone to be able to participate,” urged Martin. “And it puts everybody on the same level.”

   Thanks to so many donations, they can offer a free meal.

   When solicitating businesses for donations, Stamp said they didn’t hesitate one bit.

   The United Church has also been a major supporter in providing the physical space for the picnic, as well as leading the volunteer and organization efforts.

   Luckstead said it took between 50 and 75 volunteers last year; this year, closer to 100.

   Aside from the meal, there will be many kids’ activities taking place. The group is partnering with the Monticello library, Beef Ambassadors, and retired teachers to host the activities.

   Heritage Agency on Aging will also be present to offer information and assist the senior citizen population.

   Parks and Rec is delivering picnic tables to the church as well.

   Monetary donations can still be sent to the committee to help off-set the cost of the event. Donations can be sent to the United Church of Monticello, 123 N. Chestnut St., Monticello, IA 52310.

   Those leading the Community Picnic efforts include: Phil and Marilyn Hanna, Milt and Kelly Luckstead, Janet Martin and Bob Ballou, Keith and Sandy Stamp, and Pastor Kathryn Newhall.


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