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Local Chef Charlie Klinefelter, known locally as “Chef Charlie” and co-founder of the March of Dimes successful annual Chef’s Auction fundraiser said this would be his last year. Klinefelter said he will always believe in the mission.
After 13 years of cooking for babies, Chef Charlie is hanging up his apron. The annual March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Auction will be Thursday, Nov. 7 at Celebrations 150 in La Salle (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) and for co-founder Charlie Klinefelter this will be the last hurrah. Klinefelter said he intends to remain active in the March of Dimes and to lend his support for premature babies, but he no longer will serve as honorary chairman and lead chef after this year’s function. After toiling through 13 successive fundraisers, Klinefelter is taking a much-needed hiatus. “It was tough to make that decision,” Klinefelter said, noting he has too many competing obligations to dedicate the needed time, “and I shed a few tears. I believe in the mission still. That will never stray at all. “But sometimes you have to step back, take a year and give some of the other chefs the opportunity to shine,” he said. “We’ve got some of the greatest chefs in this area and I’m leaving them in good hands.” Chef Charlie leaves with a proud legacy. He and Lori Christopherson mounted the area’s first chef’s auction in 2001 and exceeded the breath-held goal of $15,000. The event grew both in popularity and in size. In 2010, the event cracked the March of Dimes’ list of the nation’s most successful fundraisers and last year reached a cumulative total of $1 million. For Klinefelter, the March of Dimes was a heartfelt cause. His twin daughters, Dominique and Pauline, were preemies whose early health problems dogged them throughout childhood. When the March of Dimes proposed chef’s auctions to raise funds and awareness, Klinefelter was first in line with his chef’s whites and knives. Christopherson, director of field services for the Illinois Chapter of the March of Dimes, said she’s sorry to see Klinefelter relinquish his post, but also said she understood his need for a break. Organizing the Chef’s Auction is a time-consuming affair that begins long before the event and concludes well after the fact. “If you know Charlie and you’re friends with Charlie, he’s probably asked you to help in some way,” Christopherson said. “It was a personal benchmark for him to increase the chef’s auction and move it forward. He took pride in that and he took responsibility for it. “It’s hard to put in words what Charlie has meant for the March of Dimes.” Klinefelter will be among the familiar faces doling out the Illinois Valley’s best food, desserts and libations at this year’s program. Joining the 19 restaurants, bakeries and catering services is Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. Owner-chef Monika Sudukov has studied ethnic cuisines from across the globe and will have unique offerings that will satisfy both palate and curiosity. Each year the Chef’s Auction provides live and silent auction items that set the paddles waving. This year’s packages include courtside seats to a Chicago Bulls game and an NCAA tournament package featuring an opportunity to meet past players and coaches. And for those who can’t get enough Chef Charlie, Klinefelter will bring his own culinary chops to the home of the most ardent bidders. Klinefelter is again offering his famous “BBQ Bash” to feed 100 of your friends and now, with Pat Applebee of Celebrations 150, a pig roast for 100. This year’s goal is $128,000, which would lift the area’s running total to $1.1 million raised for babies. Event sponsors are Illinois Valley Community Hospital, ADM Grain and Gary and Deb Dahl. Tickets are $80 apiece and close to selling out. VIP tables already are sold out but a few corporate and corporate-plus tables are available for $750 to $850, respectively. Call (815) 220-5806 for tickets and reservations. Peggy Cain, division director for the March of Dimes, Heartland Division, anticipates a big round of applause — and more than a few tears — when Klinefelter takes his curtain call on Nov. 7. “It’s sad for obvious reasons, but it’s unbelievable for someone to give 13 years of his life to a cause like this,” Cain said. “I know he’ll never fully go away, because he definitely supports us all the way, but he’ll definitely be missed.”