La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner cancelled

Community Thanksgiving Dinner cancelled; key goals not met and inadequate donations

A long time Thanksgiving tradition in La Crosse has come to an end.

After 33 years, the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner Board of Directors announced Friday the 2015 La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner will not be held.

“It’s kind of sad because you know a lot of people go there because they don’t have places to go,” said Adam Schmidt of La Crosse.

Through a press release, the Board of Directors said they struggled with the decision and ‘greatly regret’ to announce this years meal is cancelled. The release said, “…after reaching out to the community, we were unable to meet this year’s key goals of attaining new Planning Committee members and securing adequate donations to help with the planning requirements…”

The news came as a big surprise to Mary Gaspers and Jenny Gallagher who volunteered at the dinner all four years of high school.

“That was something that brought a lot of our class together, I think, so that’s just kind of disappointing to me and I think it’s a poor thing for the community to stop doing,” Gaspers said.

“It was a really rewarding experience working at that event in high school,” Gallagher said.

The cancellation also surprised staff at the Hunger Task Force and Salvation Army. Two organizations that receive the leftovers from the community dinner and point their clients to the holiday meal each year.

“Because really what this is about also is just people being able to get together socially and spend a holiday together just having some good food and fellowship,” said Shelly Fortner, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse.

“It’s become such a nice meal where it’s an integrated community, it’s not just the homeless sitting down, it’s the entire community sitting down together and I think that’s an important part we’ll be missing this year,” said Julie Nelson, public relations director for the Salvation Army of La Crosse.

This decision may be reevaluated in the future.

The LCTD Board of Directors released the following press release Friday afternoon:

Can the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner be saved?

The LCTD Board of Directors did struggle with the decision to cancel the Dinner.  On September 1, we issued a plea to the Community for new members to join the planning committee through a front-page article that ran in the La Crosse Tribune.  This plea elicited only 4 responses.   Without having adequate planning members the board felt it best to cancel the dinner – as we believe that if we cannot plan and organize the Dinner well, we simply cannot hold it at all. 

After the press release went out this morning, we have received an overwhelming response from the community.  As mentioned in the press release, we will re-evaluate our decision in the future, but do not want to create false hope for this year’s event.

What is the budget for the Dinner?

It costs approximately $25,000 to organize the dinner.  We still need to cover a small amount from last year’s expenses.

Contact Information:

To contact the Board Members, email

Answers to questions seen on Social Media:

·No, we are not in need of donations for food.

·Yes, we are in need of monetary donations to pay our bills; money is not the reason for canceling the dinner this year.

·No, we do not need more volunteers the day of.  We are in need of volunteers that are willing to participate on the Planning Committee, which meets several times during the year.

·No, this event is not run by the City, nor do we get any special concessions from the City.  We pay for rent at the La Crosse Center like everyone else.

·No, our Board Members do not get paid; most of us also work full-time jobs.