His name is Bob Vogelbaugh, but most people in the Quad Cities know how by another name – Mr. Thanksgiving.
For more than four decades, Mr. Thanksgiving has provided a free turkey dinner to thousands – simply because he didn’t want anyone to spend the holiday alone.
It’s that selfless service and spirit that makes Bob the first of eight nominees for the Jefferson Awards on behalf of WQAD and Genesis Health System.
“I’m overwhelmed,” says Bob.
“He’s a community legend in my mind,” says Terry Masek. Terry is Bob’s friend of nearly 40 years and nominated him for the award. “He lives the golden rule. He practices it every day.”
Besides holding the role of Mr. Thanksgiving, Bob is a crossing guard at Ericsson Elementary School in Moline. He says he loves seeing those students every day.
“They make my day,” says Bob. “They’re not too wide-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, but in the afternoon they are and it was so funny because when I first started they go -‘Is your real name Mr. Thanksgiving?’ – and I said – ‘Well, kind of.'”
Bob has also served on the Moline School Board and is devoted to helping kids in and out of the classroom.
“Bob has taken young people, disadvantaged children, special needs children to Adventureland and has spent his own money,” explains Terry. “People don’t even know that about him.”
People may also not know this about Bob –
“I got accepted into the Peace Corps and I backed out the week I was supposed to be in Washington, DC to get shots,” says Bob. “I tried two religious communities thinking I wanted to be in the religious life – left that. I thought I wanted to be a priest in 1991 when I lost my restaurant, but then I became a Deacon for the Diocese of Peoria and then it just hit me this year – this was my mission. This is what He’s wanted me to do.”
Bob adds that his mission would not be fulfilled without the help of the entire community.
With the help of an entire community,
“I feel they’re nominated with me. They’re right on my shoulders.”
He also adds that his determination is much like a previous Jefferson Award winner – local activist Chad Pregracke – who Bob quoted in his interview with WQAD:
“If you want to do something, go after it and you will succeed. It may take you awhile, but don’t ever give up.”
43 years after Bob’s first Thanksgiving, this “unsung hero” is getting the recognition he deserves.
“I just thought who better than Bob to nominate for an award that involves community service and giving of himself,” says Terry.
WQAD will be introduced you to a new nominee every month. Then, next Spring, we’ll choose just one to represent our area at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious celebration of public service. Pas winners include Pregracke, Walter Cronkite, Steve Jobs, Paul Newman, and Michael Bloomberg.