Bob Vogelbaugh says his 48th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, to be served Thanksgiving Day at SouthPark Mall in Moline, is more about community and people getting together than it is about the actual meal.
His Thanksgiving Day meal began with just that purpose 48 years ago — gathering together people who passed through his small grocery store in Moline who needed companionship on the holiday.
Vogelbaugh stressed Thursday in a news conference at the Arby’s restaurant near the mall that anyone is welcome at the dinner, and people may want to just come out to witness the spirit of the meal that last year attracted 2,000 to 2,500 people. People also can volunteer to help with the meal.
Dinner will be served from 4 to 6 p.m. at SouthPark. Volunteers should report by 3 p.m.
The meal costs more than $25,000 to put on. Vogelbaugh, who's known as "Mr. Thanksgiving," said at this point, he only has $300 in donations.
Vogelbaugh said annual challenges connected with the dinner include finances, weather, and where the meal would be served since the mall's food court was removed.
Donations in the form of checks may be made out to Mr. Thanksgiving and mailed to Vogelbaugh at 3704 26th St., Moline, IL 61265.
Free transportation will again be provided by MetroLINK. Those needing a ride should call 309-788-3360 by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, to make a reservation, and then call back the next day to learn the exact time and place they will be picked up. MetroLINK has provided rides to the feast for more than 25 years.
Donations of pies may be dropped off at the mall office on Nov. 21 and 22.
Vogelbaugh said he plans to organize the feast for at least two more years. “I want to reach 50 -- that’s two more years,” he said emphatically. “I am thankful for the community.”
He has absolutely no plans to step down before then, he added. “This is year 48, and I am going to make 50,” he said.
Vogelbaugh also saluted all his helpers. “First of all, if I didn’t have a place to hold it, if I didn’t have MetroLINK picking up people that day right at their door and bringing them out … if I didn’t have the volunteers, and if I didn’t have the people supporting it, but most important of all, the diners themselves,” he said.
“It’s not a charity dinner. It never has been. It’s a community Thanksgiving dinner, like the pilgrims and Indians getting together for the first time.”