By Taylor Provost, Assistant News Editor
What started out as a man enjoying unlimited chili on a weekly basis by himself quickly evolved into a ministry group that fills the Wendy’s dining area.
Olivet Business Professor and College Church member Steve Butler became a regular Wendy’s attendee in Aug. 2012. Wendy’s offers unlimited refills on chili every Tuesday, and after Butler began going for a few weeks by himself, his son joined. Butler’s wife, Deanna, joined in, and soon they were inviting other families, too.
Deanna listed families from College Church, some who are also Olivet Staff, who joined them for all-you-can-eat chili dinners at 6 o’clock. “First the Martens, then eventually the Bells, Quanstroms, Crockers, and Moores,” she said. The group started calling the event “Steve’s Chili Ministry Team.”
“Our goal was to fill up Wendy’s on Tuesday nights,” Deanna said. The group has grown from the original few to an average attendance of 25 people, the highest attendance being 39. Several different churches are now represented in the ministry group, as well as ages. The youngest attendee is one and the oldest is 84. “The opportunity to meet people from our community has been delightful,” she said.
The weekly event is “not only a time of fellowship, but ministry,” she said. The group celebrates each other’s birthdays, bringing in cakes or cookies and singing. Leftover dessert is then given to the Wendy’s employees. Prayer requests are also sent out amongst the group. The group invites college students “every now and then,” as well.
“I think it’s wonderful for [students] to be able to join [us] because they get the opportunity to get acquainted with their professors from Olivet in a totally different way,” Barbra Hartness, College Church member and Olivet alumnus, said. “Joining the group on chili night expands students’ ideas of their professor’s personality.”
“What we enjoy the most is hard to say,” Deanna said. “We love every aspect about [chili night]: fellowship, food, laughter, college and high school students, singles and married folks, young and old people, and the staff at Wendy’s.”
While locals continue to meet in the summer at the Bourbonnais Wendy’s location, the Butlers spend summers in Vicksburg, Michigan, where they started another “Steve’s Chili Ministry Team” this past summer. “[The group is] not nearly as big, but still a lot of fun,” Deanna said.