SIKESTON -- Chili and soup dinners, pancake days, a Mexican dinner, steak dinner and more are all planned to take place in the area within the next few weeks. And all these meals -- as well as the hard work that accompanies them -- are done in an effort to raise money.
For some, the meals focus on charity. And for others, organizations, such as the Morehouse Volunteer Fire Department, work to raise money to help cover all expenses.
"We built a new fire station two years ago, so all the money we raise goes toward that payment," said Glenn Greene, treasurer of the Morehouse Volunteer Fire Department. "The city furnishes the utilities and gas for our fire truck, but we maintain everything else."
In addition to Saturday's soup and chili dinner, the department occasionally holds a pancake breakfast, bags groceries and parks cars during the Cotton Carnival.
Several civic organizations, however, work to help out other causes.
"One hundred percent of our proceeds go to charity," said Craig Cox, adjutant of the Sons of the American Legion in Sikeston. The group's main concentrations are the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau. Among other fundraisers, the group frequently sponsors cookouts at Mr. B's as well as the Elk's Club cook shack, said Cox.
All of the money made by the Kiwanis Club through its fundraising efforts -- including Tuesday's pancake day -- is also donated to charity, with a focus on children, said member Eric Wooden.
"Our pancake day is pretty much the most brutal (fundraiser we have) in terms of the time and work involved," said Wooden.
Although the meal is open to the public at 6 a.m., members arrive at 4 to start preparing the pancakes and bacon. Some stay until 8 p.m., while others come in as their schedules allow.
"Everybody tries to get involved in any way they can," Wooden said.
Those who work to sponsor the events say that there are always a good crowd, and people are happy to come and support the cause.
"They're coming for the service and what it means and does for the community," said Wooden. "It's somewhat of a social event as well."
"We have a lot of fellowship out of it," agreed Greene. He said that firefighters' wives play an integral role in the meals, too, by preparing most of the meals, while the men serve patrons.
Representatives of the three organizations said that they'll often see people at the events that they haven't seen in a while -- or only see at that annual fundraiser.
"The Sons of the American Legion is a very well-received organization in the community," said Cox. "We've got a good, steady clientele and people look forward to our cookouts -- a lot of times, our food is already pre-ordered."
And there's a lot of time and work that goes into the meals.
Cox credited those who spend all their time preparing the food -- mostly members Larry Floyd and Nate Hawkins.
"They're the ones that really make the cook shack go -- they're here for it all, from start to finish," Cox said. One meal usually involves about five days of work, he said.
Wooden agreed. About 600 people usually are served at the pancake days. Last year, more than 400 pounds of bacon were served, and 100 bottles of syrup, 24 cases of milk and three cases of butter were used. "And those number are pretty consistent year in and year out," said Wooden.
He noted that although the group is "feeling the pinch" of higher food prices, ticket prices are again just $5 this year.
For the Kiwanis, preparations begin six weeks to two months early -- to advertise the event, as well as generate sponsors, Wooden said.
Greene said the fire department also starts plans about six weeks ahead of time, and then meet the week before the meal "just to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row."
Children get involved in some of the meals, too -- to help serve items or clean up tables. "One of our biggest goals as adult members is to teach morals and goals and put them in good situations," said Cox. "It's a stepping stone, and these kids will grow up and want to be Jaycees, Eagles, Elks or belong to other clubs in the community."