At least 2,000 people filled their bellies with turkey and holiday cheer at Bob Vogelbaugh's 42nd annual community Thanksgiving dinner at SouthPark Mall in Moline.
Mr. Vogelbaugh wasat the center of the action as 400 volunteers dashed about inside the mall, serving turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
Volunteers came to Mr. Thanksgiving, as he's known, looking for garbage bags when they ran out, for help with a toilet malfunction and advice as seating grew scarce.He happily conducted his crew and lapped up the bustling atmosphere.
"You can feel the love," he said. "This is like one big family because it's about people coming together. It's not a charity dinner, it never has been and it never will."
The crowd who came to eat and be merry were diverse.
Children played as their parents relaxed without having to worry about cleaning up after a hearty meal. Police officers helped bring plates of food to the infirm. There was live music and lots of laughter.
Sandra Atherton, of Rock Island, volunteered for the day with her husband Bob.
"My children and grandchildren were all with their in-laws today so I didn't have to cook and so I decided it was time for me to give back to my community," Ms. Atherton said. "There is a real feeling of fellowship here, and I've seen many friends I hadn't seen for a long time."
The only thing that saddened Rodney Galyean, of East Moline, about the event was he couldn't eat as much of the food as he wanted because he was going through chemotherapy.
"I'm recovering from cancer," he said. "My family is dispersed, and my nephew and I decided to come here because we had no place to go. It's a great gathering, and I'm thankful they do this."
Dianne Siebke, of Bettendorf, enjoyed some turkey with her elderly mother, Joyce Siebke.
Ms. Siebke said it was becoming difficult for her mother to get around the kitchen to make a big meal and that's why the family came to the mall to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.
"This is just wonderful," Ms. Siebke said. "It brings our family together, and everybody gets along and that's a good thing."