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Jefferson Award Winner Thomas Rand started La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Every month we have a tough time convincing Jefferson Award winners to accept the honor. Thomas Rand...is no exception.

Thirty five years ago Rand created an opportunity for families to serve their neighbors a warm meal on Thanksgiving. That tradition continues today.

"We always have enough volunteers.  In fact we have some people that come and volunteer and they don't want to leave," said Rand.  

For those who show up to eat the meal...being with others is sometimes more meaningful than the meal itself.

"They send us a card.  They give you a hug. Some come up and cry a little.  I wouldn't have had anything," said Rand.

Rand calls the event a win-win because it serves more than the people who show up to eat.

"Nothing goes to waste. All the perishable food goes to the Salvation Army. The non perishable food goes to the Hunger Task Force.  Everything is used," said Rand.

Rand credits a lot of the dinners success to advice he received from a priest in Oshkosh who was serving a Thanksgiving meal in his community.

"We spoke to him and he said, how do you put on a dinner for a few hundred people...what all does it take? He said well, I'm gonna tell you. You have to have faith, you have to be flexible and for really good instant potatoes You have to add extra butter and white pepper and with that he said that's the answer," said Rand.

Rand has since added some finishing touches on the turkey and potatoes but says good turkey and potatoes are not what he hopes to be remembered for.

"I would like people to say he was a good guy. He listened to advice and always did what he thought was best, not necessarily what was the easiest but the best that served the most people for the common good," said Rand.

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