Community Thanksgiving dinners held in the Coulee Region

Coulee Region Thanksgiving
Coulee Region Thanksgiving(WEAU)
Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 5:07 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - A warm meal on Thanksgiving day is never a guarantee for some people, but volunteers in the Coulee Region are making sure everyone has something to be thankful for.

In La Crosse, a community Thanksgiving dinner has been held every year since 1981.

After only offering carry-out and delivery last year, the La Crosse Center once again opened on Thursday for dine-in and fellowship.

Despite a return to form, Planning Committee Chair Ruth McQuiston-Keil says some people are still choosing to stay home.

“Our numbers are down a little bit as far as people coming down to the center to eat, where on the other hand our delivery numbers have increased,” McQuiston-Keil detailed. “For those that have come down here, they have told us that they are so happy that we’re able to do this again in-person.”

The Onalaska Community Thanksgiving Dinner also returned in-person this year, celebrating its 11th anniversary.

Co-founder Jean Lunde helped start the event so that community members had a place to gather with others on Thanksgiving.

“Myself, as well as my significant other, were actually sitting at home on Thanksgiving Day and were like okay, there’s got to be more people than us that are sitting home alone,” Lunde recalled. “It is a lonely time when you’re actually sitting there by yourself on a holiday.”

Lunde says the word has continued to spread each year, with more and more meals going out to the community.

“In 2011 when it started, we had 750 people,” Lunde added. “This year, we are prepping and hoping to serve over 1,600, so every year it has increased and it’s just phenomenal that people continue to come.”

Lunde credits volunteers from Mary Cody’s Restaurant and the Onalaska American Legion for cooking and serving the meals.

The La Crosse dinner is similarly reliant on the hundreds of people who contribute each year.

“We are solely funded on the generosity of our community,” McQuiston-Keil explained. “Whether it’s monetary, or schools and organizations that bake our pies, or come and decorate for us.”

More than 3,000 meals were planned between dine-in and carry-out in La Crosse, but McQuiston-Keil would love to see more faces enjoying Thanksgiving at the La Crosse Center.

“If there’s anyway we can twist your arm, convince you, bribe you to come on down, we’re going to work on that for next year,” McQuiston-Keil said.

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