Bob Vogelbaugh — better known as Mr. Thanksgiving — extended a "thank you as big as the Quad-Cities" on Thursday after receiving a check for more than $13,000.
Vogelbaugh's community Thanksgiving dinner began 48 years ago with about a dozen people joining together to eat turkey. Nearly five decades later, around 2,500 guests attend the dinner each year.
And as the event has grown, so have costs. Struggling to raise money and host the dinner, Vogelbaugh said Hy-Vee became a major contributor in 2011. On Thursday, Hy-Vee presented Vogelbaugh with a check for $13,495, to help pay off this past Thanksgiving dinner.
Since 2011, Hy-Vee has raised $116,617 for Mr. Thanksgiving.
"Without Hy-Vee, we wouldn't be going into year 49," Vogelbaugh said. "They are absolutely superb. Besides raising money, I use Hy-Vee to cook everything. And they're out there on Thanksgiving Day with all of the turkey and portable ovens, all day long, making sure everything stays warm. It's just fantastic."
Bettendorf store director Sharm Wenndt said Hy-Vee decided in 2011 to help the cause and raise money at one location on the Avenue of the Cities. The company set the goal of raising around $1,000, but ended up donating $4,000.
"And now we're at over $116,000. I just never thought it'd come to that," Wenndt said. "I'm proud of our employees and customers, and most importantly, I'm proud of what Bob does for our community. It's honestly gotten bigger than I ever expected."
To raise the money, several Hy-Vee locations sell cards each year in the shape of turkeys, with Vogelbaugh's face printed on them. Vogelbaugh laughed and said, "apparently that hasn't scared anyone away."
Putting on the annual dinner costs around $25,000, he said. Vogelbaugh said he's now beginning preparations for the 49th Thanksgiving dinner.
"People think it's a charity dinner, but it's just a community Thanksgiving dinner," he said. "It's a gathering of Indians and pilgrims, because not everybody will know each other. It's community. And it includes all sides of the river."