Mr. Thanksgiving

Volunteers serve meals during Bob Vogelbaugh's 45th annual Thanksgiving dinner last year at SouthPark Mall in Moline.

JEFF COOK, QUAD-CITY TIMES FILE PHOTO

The man synonymous with Thanksgiving dinner in the Quad-Cities is back and shows no signs of slowing down.

Bob Vogelbaugh, aka "Mr. Thanksgiving," is hosting his 46th annual community dinner from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 24 at the SouthPark Mall in Moline.

In making the announcement Thursday morning from the Arby's located in the mall's parking lot, Vogelbaugh pulled out a thank you card from 2013 and said the sentiments expressed were why he continues to hold the annual event.

"It was our first time since we had no family members to be with this year," the card read. "It was such a pleasant surprise to be surrounded by so many friendly and helpful people. It felt like the big family gatherings we used to have."

Vogelbaugh vowed to continue the dinners, which he said serve 2,000 to 2,500 guests, as long as he continues to receive support from Quad-City residents.

"What is the nicest thing about living in the Quad-Cities is that when there is a need, the people come through and everybody is absolutely wonderful no matter what part they play in this," Vogelbaugh said.

Vogelbaugh said the dinner usually has about 400 volunteers, including students and others from Moline High School, Coolidge School, Camelot School and Seton Catholic School.

Those interested in volunteering don't need to call, but can just show up.

Without all the help and donations, Vogelbaugh said the event would not have been able to continue all these years.

Supervisors and drivers from MetroLINK are even volunteering their time for pick-ups and drop-offs along routes in Illinois.

Vogelbaugh estimated the dinner, which is catered by Hy-Vee, would cost around $15,000.

Two weeks out, he has received a few thousand dollars in donations.

Vogelbaugh said the event was not a charity dinner, encouraging people who want to donate on Thanksgiving Day to give to other charities, and said this was about fellowship.

"It's like one large family," Vogelbaugh said. "From the volunteers making people feel welcome, people sitting next to strangers, and all of a sudden, they're talking. That's what it's all about."

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