Picture this: Ten gentlemen sporting vests and green caps emblazoned with the words “Edina Lions,” flipping pancakes and joking with high school graduates and their parents in a suburban garage.
This vision began when Edina residents Krista Gresham, Deb Decker and two other moms put their heads together to plan a joint party for their sons’ graduations from Edina High School in 2015. To avoid conflicting with other grad parties, the families decided to host their event in the late morning, and consequently wanted to offer breakfast food. They were expecting around 300 guests, and the prospect of preparing and serving all that food seemed daunting. So the women made a list of local caterers, but each one they contacted was unavailable.
When they thought they’d run out of options, Decker recalls seeing signs around the community advertising the Lions Club’s annual pancake charity breakfasts. She contacted the local Lions Club and was told that although cooking for their party would not be a typical charitable fundraising event, the organization would agree to a $200 donation from each family to be deposited in the club’s charitable giving account.
Lions Club president Brian Kieser says, “The whole project just dropped into our lap. The Lions have been hosting pancake breakfasts for years. Aside from a change in venue from the middle school lunchroom to Gresham’s garage, it really wasn’t a problem at all logistically. “We’re a really well-oiled machine once we get rolling,” Kieser says.
The Lions Club crew showed up hours before the party began to set up 20-plus griddles in Gresham’s garage and display their club banner on the front lawn.
“The neighborhood smelled great!” Decker says. A buffet also included doughnuts and pancake fixings like syrup, fruit, chocolate chips and whipped cream, along with numerous carafes of coffee.
More than their organizational skills, Gresham appreciated the club’s flexibility, “We threw them some curveballs, like requesting a particular pancake mix that was a family favorite recipe. They were happy to oblige, and went above and beyond.”
The friendly caterers impressed guests, and because the pancakes were served buffet-style, everyone had the chance to chat with the Lions as they went through the line. The Lions stayed after the party to clean up every crumb. “It felt like more than a graduation party; it felt like a community event,” Gresham says.
Perhaps the best part of the story came later when the families received a thank-you letter from the Lions Club that included information about the organizations that benefited from their party donations. These groups included the Minnesota Eye Bank, the Pacer Center and the Lions Club Peace Poster program. “We were so impressed by where our money went that we could have cried,” Gresham says.
The Edina Lions Club has been serving the community for more than 60 years. They hold an annual pancake breakfast each February, a waffle breakfast in the fall and they get together once a month to make sandwiches alongside the “Sandwich Man,” a local good Samaritan.
As for catering other pancake breakfast parties? “This was a first for us,” Kieser says, “but we all had a great time and would be happy to do it again if the opportunity were to present itself.”
For help with a charitable breakfast catering event of your own, contact the Edina Lions Club at their website here.