PEORIA, Ill. — Brett Musgrave didn’t say much as he sat with his cousin, Buddy Courdt, the owner of Raber Packing Co., along with Buddy’s parents, Fred and Julie Courdt, on the morning of Nov. 9, 2018.

“We tried to talk about what do things look like tomorrow,” Musgrave said.

Musgrave is the operations manager for Raber Packing Co., which is set to relocate in West Peoria.

He works full time for Courdt during the summer, when his wife, a teacher, is at home.

One of those tomorrow things was pay. The employees’ paychecks lay in a safe, but that safe was under a smoking pile of debris that had been Courdt’s fourth-generation family business.

“The fire happened when the payroll had just been done, so it was in the safe in the building,” Musgrave said.

Musgrave had that in mind, but a Raber tradition, as well. Every Friday night for a number of years, Raber employees have been cooking and serving supper to the residents of the Salvation Army mission in Peoria.

Even with the chaos happening around them, the meal remained a priority for the Courdts and their workers.

“Obviously, in that situation, we were thinking — what are they going to do? We discussed that while we were sitting watching the fire. We determined that it was still possible to do the supper that day,” Musgrave said.

After he took his kids to school, Musgrave started calling to figure out a way to get supper ready. The area business community responded.

“The owners of Pizza Ranch in Morton, they offered us pretty much any item they make. I said let’s serve pizzas, and they offered anything they make and they offered to help out,” Musgrave said.

Some of the items that the Raber Friday night supper team serves, like fruit and cookies, they purchase at the local Sam’s Club.

“They replaced what we had that burned, so we could still have all that for Friday,” Musgrave said.

The Friday night supper went on as usual.

Even as they served others, the Raber employees didn’t have to worry about their futures. Buddy Courdt assured his workers they would continue to be paid. The only delay in that process was reprocessing the payroll that was in the safe during the fire.

The Raber employees have kept up their volunteer work. Thirty Raber’s workers have volunteered their time at nonprofit organizations in and around the Peoria area.

It’s not just a benefit for the organizations that received the extra help.

“The biggest hurdle when we open back up is that people may not be used to getting up and being at the same place for an extended period of time and doing a repetitive job. The idea is to try and overcome that and give people a routine and a place to be,” Musgrave said.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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