Diner, community raise $2,500 for cancer patient

Diane Swain, right, smiles as her boss, Jody’s Diner owner Jody Burton, puts her arm around the waitress, who is receiving treatments for breast cancer. Burton offered her diner and donated food for a spaghetti dinner on April 23 that raised $2,500 to help pay for Swain’s medical bills. Burton’s staff and others also donated toward the effort. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — Nearly 200 people attended a spaghetti dinner at Jody’s Diner on Tuesday, April 23. The $10-a-plate dinner was a special event planned by owner Jody Burton to raise funds for one of her waitresses, Diane Swain, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. 

All of the waitresses serving that evening were donating their time as were the dishwashers and kitchen help. Waitresses for the evening were Nicole Sims, Melissa Blakeman, Chris Abernathy, Gail Blasi and Swain’s sister, Linda Reeves. Kitchen help included Eric Hutchins, Jeff Licht, Melissa Morris and former employee, Torie Doyle. Dishwashers were Melissa Ferguson and Alice Hughes. Burton’s mother, Chris Ellison, took tickets at the door.

Several patrons who were enjoying their dinner said they were there because they love Swain and wanted to help her out.

Reggie Hutchins and Peggy Kendell said they’ve known Swain for more than 16 years, and they love her. They also said she’s a great waitress and she makes them laugh.

“I come here a lot because they have good coffee, they are friendly, and Diane is the best. She is always pleasant, and I like her,” Joyce Casey said, “It is great to see so many people here supporting Diane. Evanston takes care of its own, that’s for sure.”

Joel Adams and his wife Alayson said they have been coming to Jody’s for three years and wanted to help Diane.

The large crowd was even more than Burton expected. She told the Herald after the dinner that she ran out of prepared food after 125 people came and had to make more. And the evening wasn’t without hiccups.

“We were hurrying to make more and grease on the stove caught on fire,” Burton said. “We got it out and were able to serve the rest of the people, but it was scary for a minute or two.”

Swain had a double mastectomy and is currently going through chemotherapy, but she is still working some hours at Jody’s. She is not a complainer, and she’s been able to maintain her cheerful demeanor. 

Burton said the dinner raised $2,500 for Swain. When asked why she donated all the food and time Burton said, “Why wouldn’t you? I am just grateful to God that I’m in a position to help. And the people in Evanston are wonderful. It makes me proud to live here.”

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