by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—When Annette Theobald was a young girl, her mother was her role model for helping others in the community. Her family was active in the church, and it was there where she first heard her mom say, “Let’s see how we can help.”
Theobald recalled being embarrassed as a teenager, when her mother told her they were going out to pull the weeds in the median at the entrance to their subdivision.
“I remember thinking, ‘I hope nobody sees me,’” she said.
However, she soon came to understand the message her mom was giving her.
“This (median) is part of our community, and it’s our responsibility (to help take care of it),” her mom said.
Theobald’s first experience with a large project to raise money for others came a few years after she moved back home from college. She and her sister-in-law, both in their 20s, volunteered to manage the purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages for St. Phillip’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Her involvement with church projects continues to this day. When she and her husband Dick moved to Kaneville, they joined St. Gall’s Church in Elburn. The church holds a rummage sale every year during Elburn Days, and Annette signed up right away. After helping out for seven years, she began running the fundraiser eight years ago.
Annette said she enjoys working on the sale with the other people from her church. She also likes the idea of people making use of items that someone else no longer needs.
“We’re becoming such a disposable society,” she said. “People throw things away that others could use.”
When the Theobalds opened their pizza business, Paisano’s Pizza & Grill, nine years ago in Elburn, it was natural for her to extend her community involvement to her business.
From the choice of the name—“Paisano” means “friend”—to the many events for which they provide pizzas at a discount or sometimes for free, the Theobalds feel a strong connection between the business and the community.
“A business has a responsibility to give back to the community,” Annette said. “It’s the community that supports you. They have lots of other choices. It goes both ways.”
Elburn Lions Club Past President Chris Halsey said the Theobalds donate something whenever the Lions Club has a benefit. They also offer to staple a flyer to their pizza deliveries to announce the event.
One out of every four Lions Club Bingo Nights is pizza night, with Paisano’s offering their pizza to the club at a discount.
“They are the type of people you instantly connect to,” Halsey said. “They are definitely an asset to the community.
Plus, they also have a very good product. My wife is from Chicago, and she says Paisano’s is the best pizza out here.”
Conley Outreach Community Services also benefits from the Theobald’s generosity.
“I can’t say enough about them (Annette and Dick),” Conley Outreach Director Carol Alfrey said. “They are so community-minded and so generous with their gifts. It goes beyond their business; it’s just who they are as people.”
Alfrey said that Paisano’s provides pizzas for the work day at the Conley Farm in Kaneville. They also put a collection jar out on the counter at their restaurant for Holiday Spirit donations, and match the amount that people give.
They donate gift cards for the Kaneville United Methodist Church’s fundraisers, and do “a little bit of everything,” Alfrey said.
Conley Outreach awarded Paisano’s its Angel Award for Business in 2010, recognizing local donors or sponsors who go above and beyond.
“They step up whenever they’re asked and even when they’re not asked,” Alfrey said.
This year marked the sixth July 4 that Paisano’s donated 65 percent of the day’s receipts to a specific organization. Conley Outreach has been a recipient, as well as the Elburn Lions Club, the American Legion, the Kaneville Fire Department and the Kaneland Sports Boosters.
This year, the Kaneland Parents’ Performing Arts Boosters benefitted from Paisano’s generosity. The parents’ organization raises money to support Kaneland schools’ chorus, band and theatre programs.
Not only did Paisano’s donate a portion of the day’s sales, they invited Boosters Executive Board members to the restaurant that day to inform customers about their organization and what they do.
“Fundraising for kids things is difficult,” Performing Arts Boosters Vice President Trisha Mills said.
Mills explained that students are always bringing home requests for donations for various organizations and events.
“People’s money can only go so far. This (Paisano’s donation) was really huge for us,” she said.
Annette said that she and Dick are on the same page about how Paisano’s can help out in the community. However, while Annette’s focus is more on what organization she can help, she said Dick’s antenna picks up on helping specific individuals with whom he comes in contact.
“He has done this by giving them a short-term loan; giving them a job, even if they have no food experience,” she said. “He has even taken a customer or two he had gotten to know to a doctor’s appointment, when they had no other way to get there. He is quite modest about what he does.”
Theobald has already begun to instill her desire to help in her children, 12-year-old Hannah and 10-year-old Vanessa.
“Hannah already does so many things,” Annette said.
Hannah helps out at the church’s rummage sale, volunteers as a teacher’s assistant at Kaneville United Methodist Church’s Vacation Bible School, and also helped out at the Kaneville Fire Department’s Pancake Breakfast for a few years.
“Different people like to volunteer for different things,” Annette said.
Vanessa, who also helps with the rummage sale, likes to test the donated items, making sure that all the parts are there.
“There are so many things we could do for each other that don’t have to cost anything,” Annette said.
Donating your old eyeglasses to the Lions Club, collecting Campbell Soup labels for the Kaneville Community Center and growing your hair a few extra feet for Locks of Love are just a few examples.
Annette said she also looks through the paper to find events to which she can contribute, as well as find wish lists from various organizations for which she can provide needed items.
“It’s a mindset,” she said.
For Annette, it’s important to choose things to volunteer for that you enjoy. She said that, before you commit yourself to something, you should understand what is involved and how much of a time commitment it is.
“You should also ask yourself, ‘Is it your gift? Is your heart in it?’” she said. “If you don’t enjoy doing it, do something else.”