'Food can heal': Volunteers provide Thanksgiving meal for jail detainees recovering from addictions
Quenby Schuyler hit an all-time low in late March 2020.
Her father was in the hospital with COVID-19, and she could not visit him because of pandemic restrictions. He died alone. There was no funeral possible -- just a curbside pickup of his ashes from a funeral home.
A sympathizing worker at her business told her, "Boy, it's too bad the bars aren't open because you could use a drink."
Something clicked in Schuyler. Alcohol -- readily available in her job as a private chef and caterer -- had become a problem for her.
She turned to Lighthouse Recovery of St. Charles to help her start a life of sobriety.
And that is how she found herself cooking a Thanksgiving meal this week for about 100 detainees and staff members in the substance-abuse recovery pod of the Kane County jail. It's the third consecutive year she's done it.
Schuyler, who lives in St. Charles, said preparing the annual meal shows the detainees, "We understand your struggles."
"Part of my recovery is doing this," Schuyler said Tuesday, as volunteers (some also in recovery) made gravy and peeled potatoes for the meal.
'A different person'
Schuyler is the owner of Qs Catering.
Drinking wine while working, or enjoying a bottle given to her by clients, was common. (A 2015 study by the federal government found the accommodations and food-service industry had the third-highest rates of heavy alcohol use among industries.)
While she sometimes donated her services, it was mostly to promote her business.
"I was definitely a different person," Schuyler said.
That changed when she entered recovery.
Lighthouse runs the substance-abuse recovery program at the Kane County jail. As Thanksgiving 2020 approached, the director of the jail program asked Schuyler to make a special holiday meal for the participants.
Later, a former detainee recognized Schuyler during a Zoom sobriety group meeting. "I remember what you made!" he said.
What's on the menu
People donated about $2,000 this year to cover the cost of the meal. The Patten House restaurant in Geneva donated the turkeys.
The food was prepared on Tuesday and Wednesday in a commercial kitchen at Faith Lutheran Church in Geneva. Lighthouse staff will pick it up Thursday morning and rewarm it at the jail.
The detainees and the pod staff will have turkey, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, a fresh green bean casserole, smashed potatoes, a greens salad, and corn-and-cheddar pudding.
"This has become a passion of mine," Schuyler said.
"Food is medicine," she said. "Food can heal and bring people together."