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Volunteers prepare for La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Kaitlyn Riley

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A pandemic cannot slow the community’s passion for feeding others this Thanksgiving holiday.

The Annual La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner will still happen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through carryout and delivery services Thursday from the La Crosse Center. Among the organizers, preparing is Planning Committee Chair and Board Member Ruth McQuiston-Keil.

“We are going to have people busy at work already this morning,” she said Wednesday. “We’re basing how many people we will be feeding off last year’s numbers. Our target goal is 3,000 people.”

McQuiston-Keil admitted there may be fewer people this year as 2020 disrupted the almost 40-year-old tradition. Rather than gathering at the La Crosse Center as in years past, those interested in delivery had to call in requests before Tuesday, but takeout options will still be available.

“Anyone that couldn’t get in for a delivery, please come on down to the La Crosse Center,” McQuiston-Keil said. “Pull up, let the volunteer know how many dinners you need.”

To make the event as contactless as possible, those driving up will be asked to pop their trunks or unlock their doors so volunteers can put the meals in the back of their vehicles for them.

“That way there is no interaction,” she said. “All of our volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves, and each will be required to do a temperature check before they start their shift. We are also asking volunteers who already signed up to please stay home if you don’t feel well. Don’t worry about it. There will be enough of us that we will pull together.”

The dinner will not be operating out of its normal location because the La Crosse Center’s North Hall is under construction. Instead, they will be working out of the very south end of the center off Jay Street.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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