Wisconsin News

La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner is short $20,000 on donations

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner may be struggling to pay the bills this year.

The annual Thanksgiving gathering has been bringing people of all walks of life together for the last 31 years.

For the last eight years, Bob Fisher has been overseeing the preparation of thousands of meals for the dinner.

"Well, I've been head of the kitchen committee, they tell me, for about eight years, I guess. You kind of lose track when you're having fun," said Fisher.

During all those years, a papier-mâché turkey carefully crafted by his wife has been stuffed full of donations at Wesley United Methodist Church.

But this year, donations for the dinner have been harder to come by.

It takes about $25,000 to pull it off. Right now, the dinner has only raised about $5,000 in donations.

Organizers said they will still feed everyone who needs a meal this Thanksgiving.


But concern is growing because the number of donations is usually higher this close to the event.

"The money for the food comes from donations. The two critical factors for this event to come off successfully is, number one, the volunteers and, number two, the donations," said James Allman, the Publicity Chairman for the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

In years past, board members have helped cover any shortfalls. Sometimes, donations flow in after the feast is over. Either way, there's still a long way to go.

"We need financial donations, plain and simple," said Fisher.

It takes a lot of cash to rent the space, pay the insurance and serve about 3,000 people. That's 1,500 pounds of turkey, 900 pounds of potatoes and stuffing, 60 gallons of gravy and 400 pumpkin pies.

The dinner will still go on, whether or not the donations are there to cover the costs, so the La Crosse community can celebrate the holiday in a way that makes everyone feel included.

"You don't know if your neighbor sitting next to you is the president of some company or if you happen to be staying at the Salvation Army," said the Rev. Ellen Rasmussen, the Worship Coordinator for the dinner.

"We hope to see anyone and everyone there who wants to go. This is not based on need. This is based on having a community spirit and a Thanksgiving spirit," said Allman.

Board members said they remain optimistic, despite the low donations. They are hoping for larger donations from churches and organizations this week. They also typically get some generous donors the day of the event.

Doors to open at the La Crosse Center at 10 a.m. There will be an interfaith worship service at 10:30 a.m. Dinner will be served from 11 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

For more information on going to the dinner, getting a meal delivered, volunteering, or donating, check out the event's website or call 608-782-8726.

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