Bob Vogelbaugh's usual Community Thanksgiving Dinner announcement was unusual this year.

"Mr. Thanksgiving" has long said he would continue to lead the event until the 50th dinner, which is three years away.

"I've already picked my replacement," Vogelbaugh announced Thursday.

Then the surprise: "His name is Isaac Rumler. He's 9 now. He'll be 12 years old (when he takes over)."

Isaac's mom, Amber Rumler, later corrected that her son is 8 and will be 11 when he (and his parents) take over leadership of the holiday shindig.

The third grader at Seton Catholic School stole Vogelbaugh's heart, he said, when the boy was rewarded by his parents for his perfect report card with $20.

"He asked to be driven to the mall, so he could donate the money to Mr. Thanksgiving," Vogelbaugh said. "He's an adult in a child's body."

Amber Rumler said her son was in kindergarten — three years ago this week — when he saw Mr. Thanksgiving on the news, talking about the upcoming dinner.

"He said, 'I'm going to give my money to him to help with Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "I just think he wanted to help out — to help others. That was the first year he volunteered, and this year will be our fourth time."

She agreed Isaac is mature for his age. An animal lover, the boy also has volunteered at local animal shelters. For the Thanksgiving dinner gig, he'll need his parents' help.

"Mr. Thanksgiving is a crossing guard at Isaac's school, Seton," she said. "He's been joking for several years about him taking over, even calling him Mr. Thanksgiving Jr."

But it was no joke. Asked whether the attention, title and responsibility are a little much for a boy, Amber Rumler did not hesitate in her reply: "I think he's up to it — with help from Mom and Dad."

A fifth-grade teacher in Moline, she said her husband and Isaac's dad, Matt Rumler, also will keep a hold on the Thanksgiving dinner reins.

The family intends to arrive early for this year's dinner party and likely will invest more time next year, shadowing Vogelbaugh to get familiar with what goes into planning a meal for 2,000 people.

Also at Thursday's announcement, Vogelbaugh said he needs about $20,000 in donations to carry off this year's dinner.

"Here we go again — 47 years. It's hard to believe," he said. "I'm thankful to so many people. This is not something that could be done by one person. And I remind you: This is not a charity dinner, never has been. It's for all walks of life."

Though Vogelbaugh and his cast of volunteers did all the cooking for the holiday dinner for many years, the kitchen space at the mall no longer is available. He now partners with local Hy-Vee grocery stores to cater the birds and all the side dishes.

He said he has about $1,200 in the bank, but he'll need much more to serve the 2,000-plus who turn out.

"I know they (donors) will come through, but this is scary," he said. "Two weeks from today is the dinner.

"I can't thank people enough that have made this work," he said. "All I can say is, 'Thank you from the bottom of my heart.'

"Why God ever picked me to be the turkey, I'll never know."

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