[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — “If you feed them, they will come.”
Dave Erickson has found that if you’re hosting an event at your parish, offering food is a sure way to get people in the door. And with his culinary skills, he’s just the guy to do that.
Erickson earned an education degree from UW-Oshkosh and taught at the Outagamie County Juvenile Detention center for 18 years. Two years ago, he took a position at Appleton East High School teaching world history.
“I’ve basically had two careers in my life,” said Erickson. “I worked in restaurants and when I closed my restaurant I decided to use my degree and go into teaching. It’s pretty difficult to get into a public school district, especially as a history teacher because they are a dime a dozen. I did a lot of praying and I got a job.”
In thanks for his job, Erickson determined he was going to give back to Sacred Heart, his lifelong parish. His wife, Gloria, a former Lutheran who became Catholic before they were married, got involved in parish work as well.
Erickson started by teaching religious education to middle school students, which he did for many years. “The big thing that got us involved was when we joined the Sacred Heart Catholic School Boosters,” he said. At the time, his daughter Libby was in kindergarten or first grade. “We worked to grow the group. We really added a lot to the group in terms of events.”
The booster club has several objectives, including promoting the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System within the Sacred Heart family, raising funds for the school system and the parish, and thanking Sacred Heart parishioners for their financial support of Catholic education.
Events put on by the group, where Erickson puts his cooking skills to use, consist of the annual spaghetti dinner, held in conjunction with Catholic Schools Week, a brat fry during the summer after 4:30 Mass, a chili dinner at Fall Fest and a sock hop where burgers, fries and malts are served.
Erickson also cooks his award-winning fish dinners for three fish fries during Lent. One benefits the Catholic school boosters, one is for the general parish and one is for the Sacred Heart youth group. Everyone is welcome to any of these events.
“The idea behind these events is, yes, to make some funds but also to create community in the church and also for the parishioners to see the young kids involved,” said Erickson. “Our kids are involved in the parish … because of the Catholic School Boosters group. They’re the majority of the Mass servers, they’re involved in the singing, they’re involved in the Catholic School Boosters stuff.”
The money raised every year from these various events is split evenly between the school system and the parish. “It’s our opportunity to thank the parish for their spiritual and financial support,” said Erickson.
He said the group puts money towards Bishop’s Appeal, the parish youth group’s mission trip as well as church remodeling projects and other Catholic school needs.
One benefit for booster parents who have their children in the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System is that funds from the group pay for their children’s registration fees for school each year.
Organizing all these events and doing the prep work for each meal takes a good deal of time for Erickson, who is also on the Sacred Heart finance council. “I have to plan and I have to order, we have to do set up, we have to do the events,” he said. “For a couple of events there’s a lot of prep work involved the morning of or the day before that has to be taken care of as well. I’ve got a great team of people that volunteer so that helps as well but I burn my personal days.”
It’s a commitment but Erickson is more than happy to do it.
“Cooking is something that comes easy to me. It’s just my thing and my way of giving back to the parish and the community,” he said. “I just love the Sacred Heart community. I’ve been there my whole life and I feel at home there. I feel comfortable there every time I go there. It’s almost like cooking for friends in your home.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Dave Erickson
Parish: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Appleton
Favorite saint: Perpetua
Words to live by: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]