BEMENT, Ill. (WCIA) — Central Illinois has many tight-knit small towns where everybody knows everybody. People often rely on friendly neighbors when they need help in places like that. In Bement, there is a remarkable woman who will always answer the call.

She has picked up food from Lucky Monkey Pub and Grub more times that she can count, but it is not all for her.

“If somebody needed help, you don’t hesitate to help. That’s how I was brought up,” recalled Gail Lefever.

She loads up her car, buckles up, and heads to the first of about 15 stops when it is her turn to do the job. It is a rotation between her and a few other volunteers.

“We’ve almost hit the 3-year mark with our peace meals,” longtime Bement resident, Beth Carey said.

People like her rely on this food. Gail has been making the deliveries for more than 20 years. The meals go to the elderly or people who have difficulty getting around on their own.

“My husband has some medical issues. That means he can’t help me do a lot of the things he used to do,” Carey explained.

For those who live alone, Gail says old age can be lonely. Face-to-face conversations with people become few and far between.

“At least at Noon, every day Monday through Friday, somebody is connecting with them. Somebody sees them, opens the door, and says hello,” Gail said.

The peace meals also serve another important purpose. Each door Gail knocks on is a wellness check.

“Sometimes, if people don’t come to the door, it’s an indication that they might need help,” she stated. “And sometimes, phone calls have had to be made to their care giver.”

It does not stop there. Gail is retired, but likes to keep her plate full. She is also very active in the Bement Lions Club, helping brainstorm new ideas for services, programs, and events.

“Gail takes on tasks that a lot of people don’t want to take on, and that’s huge. And, she does it sort of thanklessly,” Bement Public Library Director, Donna Techau, said.

When the pandemic turned life upside down, she wanted to help. Techau, however, was new to town and needed someone who knew the community inside and out to get programs running.

“Gail was a big part of that,” Techau said.

The library opens a couple hours early for Senior Coffee Hour. They play games and simply talk to one another. Techau says people were shut in and lacking fellowship.

“The first week, I think we had three people, and one of them was me. The other one was probably somebody I made come with me,” Gail recalled laughingly.

They masked up and got together weekly. The pandemic slowed down, but the group did not. It has grown to a dozen people.

“They, you know, have a whole lot of fun. They’re a rowdy bunch, but I’ve also seen them quiet down and listen to each other, and care about each other, pray for each other,” Donna explained.

They also thought about people at the other end of the spectrum, too. The Time for Tots program helped children learn to socialize when daycares shut down. Gail’s 34-year career in education made her the perfect volunteer, yet again.

“She gets down on her hands and knees and plays with them, and sings with them, and teaches them poetry, and reads them books,” Donna said.

From young to old, Gail always meets the needs of her community. She is a big helping hand in small-town bement.
“[Gail is] very friendly [and] outgoing. She’s willing to help anybody figure out whatever they need,” Carey said.

Gail has lived in Bement since 1973, but did not initially think it would be home forever. However, something changed her mind.

“We liked it. We started a family. We realized a small town is perfect for a family, and we made wonderful friends here,” Gail recalled.

Similarly, Gail has become a friend to many with people she would have otherwise never met if it were not for all her years volunteering.