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Some Jefferson County restaurants have instituted programs to provide free meals to health care workers and first responders, who are on the front line of the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Pasta House in Festus and Jilly’s Cafe & Steakhouse in High Ridge have set up fundraising campaigns to cover the cost of providing meals to first responders and others.

The KFC in Festus provided meals for employees at the Festus Manor Care Center, where there’s been a coronavirus outbreak. In addition, the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery and Casey’s General Stores recently donated food.

Pasta House

The Festus Pasta House, 1606 Galemore St., which is only open for pick-up and delivery orders, began its program to feed health care workers and first responders the week of April 6.

“The first meals were distributed at Mercy Hospital Jefferson (in Crystal City),” said Bobby Glass, a manager of the restaurant. “There were 101 meals distributed. We took 59 meals for the daytime shift and 42 for the night shift.”

Glass said the idea to feed hospital workers and first responders was owner Don Bolinger’s.

“He reached out to businesses in the community to donate,” Glass said.

A $10 donation will cover one meal, he said. “We’ll deliver the meals (from the restaurant),” Glass said.

He said the Festus Pasta House offers different meals so the hospital employees and first responders can eat different dishes on different days.

“They get a full portion of pasta – we have six different pastas we’re serving – a full-size salad and a roll with butter,” Glass said.

He said donors have given money for meals for specific agencies.

“We’ve served meals at the hospital and for the Joachim-Plattin Ambulance District,” Glass said. “We had someone pay for meals for the De Soto Fire Department.”

Jilly’s Cafe & Steakhouse

Lisa and Daniel Bundy, owners of Jilly’s Cafe & Steakhouse, 1630 Gravois Road, in High Ridge, also are collecting donations to put toward meals they prepare and distribute to health care providers and first responders.

Lisa Bundy said the idea came from a local resident.

“A lady called and said she’d started a GoFundMe page for meals for first responders,” Bundy said. “We had closed (due to the pandemic). But, I thought about it and started my own GoFundMe page to pay for meals for first responders.”

So, while the restaurant is temporarily closed to the public, it is using the donated funds to cover the cost of preparing and delivering meals to the health care providers and first responders.

“We’ve delivered to (SSM Health) St. Clare Hospital in Fenton and Mercy Hospital South (in south St. Louis County),” Bundy said. “We’ve delivered to Missouri Baptist Hospital (in St. Louis County). We’ve also delivered to High Ridge Fire and the North Jefferson Ambulance District. My husband has been making the meals himself and delivering them.”

The meal recipients have received a variety of food.​ “We’ve done different kinds of pasta and sandwiches and homemade chips,” Bundy said. “It will be different items, different times.”

To donate to the Bundy’s project, go to the “Jilly’s Mission to Feed our Healthcare Heroes” GoFundMe page.

Casey’s General Stores

Casey’s General Stores in Crystal City, De Soto and Hillsboro recently donated 165 pizzas to Mercy Hospital Jefferson County in Crystal City to feed nearly 700 employees across 56 departments and clinics. The pizzas were delivered to thank the staff for their hard work to keep the community safe.


On Sunday, the KFC in Festus donated 25 chicken dinners to employees at the Festus Manor Care Center, where 55 residents and 25 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus. A local resident, Susan Liley of De Soto, came up with the idea.

“I just wanted to help,” Liley said. “I have a friend who has a relative who works for Festus Manor who’s been living in the Holiday Inn. I contacted the Festus KFC. I (donated) $30 (toward the meals), and they covered the rest of the cost. I picked up the meals and dropped them off at the Holiday Inn. I also dropped off a couple of cases of water.”

Blue Owl

In March, Mary Hostetter, the owner of the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery in Kimmswick, and some of her employees delivered to police departments, fire stations, ambulance houses and hospitals throughout Jefferson and St. Louis counties.

Hostetter said she and the employees made the desserts, while observing social-distancing guidelines, at the Kimmswick restaurant, which closed on March 18 because of the pandemic.

-- Kevin Carbery