Bob Vogelbaugh, Mr. Thanksgiving, addresses the crowd in 2011 at the SouthPark Mall food court before the meal is served. This is his 41st annual community Thanksgiving dinner. (John Schultz / Quad-City Times)

John Schultz

Heading toward his 42nd annual community dinner, Mr. Thanksgiving conceded Thursday that he isn’t Brett Favre.

Bob Vogelbaugh, who has threatened in recent years to retire after serving his last Thanksgiving meal at SouthPark Mall, finally admitted he wouldn’t quit. He joked at his annual appeal for help about the former NFL quarterback who threatened retirement several times.

“I’ll probably do this until my health gives out,” he said, wearing a white “Mr. Thanksgiving” hat. “I’m not going to play Brett Favre anymore.”

He talked about all the people who thank him, including children tugging at his pants leg at the dinner.

“You’d have to have a heart of stone to give it up,” he said.

Vogelbaugh, of Moline, who said he needs $16,000 to put on the dinner Nov. 22, got a boost Thursday from the Moline Police Benevolent Association. The police group gave $2,000, bringing the coffers to $6,000.

In the past, the police group gave out 200 to 300 food baskets. With new leadership, members looked at other ways to help the community and saw Vogelbaugh’s dinner, which feeds 2,700 people, as a way to help.

“Bob’s dinner feeds thousands of people,” association president Nate Medinger said. “We wanted to have more of an impact.”

The benevolent association’s donation will replace the food baskets. Officers also will help serve meals.

“It is an honor to be a part of this,” association secretary Nate Hoover said. “We thought this went a little farther with our money.”

Vogelbaugh always appreciates the army of volunteers who help. He considers the 400 people who lend a hand on Thanksgiving as a family. Tearfully, he said this year’s dinner would be dedicated to volunteers Stu Olson of Milan and JoAnne Ufheil of Annawan, who both died of cancer earlier this year.

“Stu and JoAnne were a part of this dinner for so many years and became part of a family,” Vogelbaugh said. “It is hard to lose friends who have been a part of the dinner for so long.”

While seeking donations to help pay for the dinner, Vogelbaugh also reminded people that MetroLINK will provide transportation for Illinois residents to get there. To arrange transportation, call MetroLINK at 309-788-3360 to reserve a seat.