A Minnesota Spirit of Giving

Bill FoussardThis is a re-post from a couple of years ago. It is definitely worth reading again. What an amazing man and selfless giver.

Back in 1970, Bill Foussard and his friend, Barb Aslesen, heard about a friend’s family that was not going to be able to afford a Thanksgiving dinner.  They immediately sprang to action planning to cook extra in Bill’s kitchen and deliver a full meal to them on Thanksgiving morning.  A few people heard what they were doing and asked Bill and Barb if they could help out with feeding two more families.  Those three families amounted to twenty four meals that inaugural year; this year they will feed 19,000 people.

Owner of the Best Western White Bear Country Inn in White Bear Lake Minnesota, Bill is no stranger to making connections.  That is how this Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels program works, all through volunteerism and donations.  Having no paid staff, a hundred percent of cash donations go to the program.  When I asked him where he got all the food, Bill gave all the credit to others, “People are just generous!”  Some of their contributors are Jennie-O turkeys in Minnesota and US Foods headquartered in Illinois.  They even get donations of some of their rolls from a bakery in Omaha, all a testament of the regional spirit of giving.

Initially they cooked the meals in Bill’s mother’s kitchen; feeding up to 400 people.  When the program outgrew that space, they moved to a mobile kitchen, working out of the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul.  After that location was torn down, they settled in their current location at Cretin Derham High School in St. Paul.    This is a convenient setting for the 3000 volunteers who start rolling in at 4:00 AM to cook and 7:30 to deliver.  The cars are on the road by eight with a minimum of two volunteers per vehicle.  Often times it is a family affair.  Since they are done with all the deliveries by eleven, people still have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of their day.

Barb works with over thirty agencies to find the families who are in need.  This year they will enjoy dinners of turkey, dressing, potatoes, peas, corn, cranberries, rolls, pumpkin pie and milk.  When I asked Bill how much time he spends all year organizing this amazing undertaking, he deferred any accolades, “I never talk about time.  That morning is so special.”  But I know Bill; his phone is like an extra appendage.  And if you think he gets to rest after Thanksgiving, you’re wrong!  He’ll be preparing for the Christmas party he is hosting for 150 local seniors at his hotel.

If you would like to volunteer for Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, please contact Bill at 651-699-5404.  For people like Bill and Barb…we are truly thankful.

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