Community Thanksgiving dinner expected to be better than ever

Board expect to serve about 4,000 meals this year

The Thanksgiving dinner in La Crosse has a more than 30-year tradition in the community, but a lack of volunteers forced it to be cancelled briefly late last month.

Since then, volunteers ‘have been coming out of the woodwork.’

The La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner began in 1982 in the basement of a local church. That year, about 100 volunteers served approximately 300 turkey dinners. Fast forward to 2014, it took about 300 volunteers serving 3,000 plus meals.

Even though it was cancelled for a few days, this year is expected to be the best dinner yet.

Larry and Elaine Bodin usually go on vacation with their kids for Thanksgiving. This year, they decided to stay in town and volunteer at the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

“We were just going to volunteer the day of, we wanted to serve, we wanted to see what went on, how many of the community got together. Then Larry came home and said, ‘It’s been cancelled’ and we panicked. We were like, ‘No, no, this can’t go away. What are we going to do?'” Elaine said.

What they did was call up one of the founders of the dinner, Tom Rand.

“At 6:30 on a Friday night, I said, ‘This can’t be,’ and he said, ‘Well, we need help on the planning side of it,'” Larry Bodin said.

Rand said the Bodins weren’t the only ones to volunteer after hearing of the cancellation. More than 130 emails stuffed the organizations inbox, and at a meeting a few days later, about 60 people showed up, offering to help in planning the dinner.

“This community always seems to rally around events such as this,” Rand said.

Rand said all that support has him believing this year will be “much better than it has been in the past.”

“It’s really more than a dinner. It’s about community building. It’s about camaraderie. It’s about enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” Rand said.

Larry and Elaine Bodin are just two of the new, and now fully-staffed, community dinner planning team and said they are looking forward to seeing firsthand how important this dinner is to the community.

“Thanksgiving is people coming together, and it doesn’t just have to be family. Your community can be family,” Elaine Bodin said.

Rand said at its peak, the community dinner was serving about 4,000 meals, but that has dipped a little in recent years, because other communities have started their own dinners. This year, the board is expecting about 4,000 once again, due to the renewed support.

If anyone would like to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day to help serve dinner or sign-up to have a meal delivered to their home, they can find all the information at lacrossethanksgivingdinner.com