Mr. Thanksgiving and Friends Prepare to Feed Thousands

November  15, 2013

Print, radio, and television journalists returned to South Park Mall in Moline Thursday for an annual ritual. Mr. Thanksgiving invited everyone to his traditional turkey dinner. Bob Vogelbaugh also asked for donations to help pay for the meal. The address for mailing donations is Mr. Thanksgiving, 3716 35th St., Apt. #3, Moline, IL, 61265.

It's the 43rd year he and his friend, Vicki Birdsell Baker, have organized the Thanksgiving dinner. It all started when he invited customers from his grocery store to eat with him so they wouldn't be alone. "I'm dedicating it to South Park Mall. For seven years we had it at my store, one year at SKILS, four years at the Rock Island YWCA, and we've been at the mall ever since then."

Vogelbaugh is also dedicating this year's dinner to all donors and volunteers over the years, veterans, and his mother. South Park Mall Marketing Manager, Aleshia Chiesa, says the meal will be served in the food court, as usual. "We're very thankful to have Bob host something like this at the mall. And I think we'd like to work with him for another 40 years."

Once again, Metrolink will give Illinois Quad Cities residents free rides. Anyone who needs one should call 788-3360 to make a reservation.

Last year, nearly 2,900 people showed up. Volunteers do not need to call; Mr. Thanksgiving says they can just arrive early. The dinner will run from 4:00 until 6:30 pm.  Some people who attend may decide to stay a little later. At 8 pm, more than a dozen stores at South Park Mall will open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

At Habeneros in the mall, Mr. Thanksgiving lays out a spread for the media including coffee, cashews, and cookies (from Moline's Olde Towne Bakery). He calls reporters and photographers his "invitations." (Michelle O'Neill photo / November 14, 2013)