MUSCATINE, Iowa — Jim Weigand, of Muscatine, bought his first Thanksgiving meal for a family about nine years ago. This year, with the help of local donations and the Knights of Columbus, they are delivering more meals than ever before.
"A young fellow passed away and left a wife and couple young children, so my wife and I came out here and purchased a dinner and had it sent to them anonymously. It’s grown since then," Weigand said of the meal's origins.
The Knights of Columbus ordered 41 meals by Hy-Vee, and as Weigand recalled, that's almost twice the number they purchases last year. Each meal can feed up to 15 people, which means meal organizers surpassed their goal of raising enough money to feed 600 people.
Most of the money raised during the Knights' beef and noodle dinner that was held Nov. 9.
That benefit, along with freewill donations, totaled about $2,000, according to Weigand.
"Each meal has a 10- to 12-pound turkey, two quarts of mashed potatoes, dressing, dinner rolls and a pumpkin pie," said Kim Ogden, catering coordinator at Hy-Vee.
In addition to the 40-plus meals for the Knights, Hy-Vee employees had their hands full with other Thanksgiving orders.
"There's about 200 other packages out to just regular customers. We stayed until about 10 p.m. last night and came back in this morning. It's busy but it feels really good," Ogden said.
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The turkey dinners cost $89.99 but, as part of Hy-Vee's donation toward the program, the Knights are charged about $60 per meal.
"The general public knows about the program now and have contributed. Many CEOs of local corporations also sent donations to my home," Weigand said.
The dinners were prepared for the Jesus Mission, MCSA's women's shelter, and some were delivered to families' homes. The names of families in need were given to the Knights through St. Mary and Mathias Catholic Church, and by word of mouth.
"One of our employees just got really bad news," said Ogden, who explained a family recently discovered their 2-year-old child has a brain tumor. "So one of the meals is going to their family."
In previous years, five Knights named Jim delivered the meals.
"One had his knee replaced last week so my wife made up this sign for Byron to wear," said Weigand, pointing out the sign around Byron Keefe's neck.
The sign said "Jim for a Day."
"I feel honored," Keefe said. "As Christians, we hear all the time about praying for the sick — and you can do that — but sometimes you want to do something concrete to help. This is something tangible that we can do to help, and that feels good."