Posts Tagged ‘Bill Foussard’

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.

The Christmas Spirit All Year

Christmas JoyAs a writer it is easy to spend a great deal of time “in my head” and by myself.  There’s nothing like a flu-like bug to snap you back to reality.  Once I hit the tail end of the misfortune, my mind began to wander to the upcoming Christmas holiday.  I thought about three people I know that demonstrate the Christmas Spirit all year long.

The first is my friend and colleague, Bill Foussard.  Bill is one of the hardest working guys in the hotel industry.  But it is his unbelievable generosity and heart that amaze me.  He spends a good deal of time during the year organizing a Meals on Wheels event for Thanksgiving that feeds around 20,000 people.  Somehow he manages to get donations to cover it all.  Then the next month he hosts a party with Santa for seniors at his Best Western White Bear Country Inn in White Bear Lake, MN.  Please, Bill, keep up the good work.

The next person is also someone that I am lucky enough to consider a friend.  Chuck Horton, from a well-known boxing family in Duluth, MN, started a program of outreach through his gym and boxing instruction.  He never turned away a youth who came to him wanting to learn the sport.  Sometimes the local judges sent young men to Chuck instead of to a juvenile center for “rehabilitation.”  He took them into the gym and under the collective wing of the other boxers to help guide the youth to better choices.  Although he has handed his gym over to former professional boxer Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters, Chuck’s undying spirit still thrives at the gym and in Duluth boxing.

The last person is someone I got to meet and interview recently.  As a Vietnam Veteran, Brad Bennett spent decades fighting the memories and guilt of a soldier.  He was involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) group in the Duluth area, and met a Vietnamese man who escaped the horrors of the Vietnam conflict by fishing boat.  The man was sponsored and raised by a family in Duluth.  Upon meeting Bennett, the two formed a bond and planned a trip back to Vietnam where Bennett would donate thousands of dollars he raised through his local radio show.  His kindness, donations, and return trips have helped to rebuild a village that he once helped decimate.  God bless your gentle soul, Brad.

I am proud to know these three men.  I am also proud to say I know others who do similar acts of kindness all year long.  That is the true embodiment of the Christmas Spirit, and may we all learn from these wonderful folks.  Merry Christmas!

Planning To Give

Hats, Mittens, and Scarves

If you’re like me you cringe when you walk into a store in October and see the Christmas decorations out already.  I’m all about the holidays, but I don’t want to skip the ones between now and the end of December!  However, there are some things that need to be brought up in advance because some planning is required.

I wrote in an earlier post about a friend of mine, Bill Foussard, who is the soul of Meals on Wheels in the St. Paul area of Minnesota.  He is one of those guys with a heart of gold and his actions speak volumes.  Bill fed nearly twenty thousand people last year for Thanksgiving.  Why bring this up now?  Because it’s getting to be that time of the year.  You don’t just wake up one day and cook tens of thousands of dinners for some folks in need.  It requires planning and a lot of volunteers.  These people are needed in advance, not just on Thanksgiving Day.  Who could you help this year?

Another thing to think about is holiday parties.  Are you planning one?  Have you already purchased your centerpieces?  If not, this story and pictures could help.  Last year we decided to forgo the usual greenery at our Minnesota Lodging Association holiday banquet.  Instead we purchased baskets to decorate and filled them with nonperishable food.

I made a detailed spreadsheet, checked and rechecked food prices at the wholesale club, and then made one big purchase.  We bought baskets from a craft store when they went on sale and used tissue for decoration.  By doing this, we were able to donate over 400 pounds of food to local food shelves.  And no one argued over who got to keep the centerpiece.  Another bonus, now we have baskets to reuse this year.

What else could you do?  How about adding some mittens, scarves, and hats to the baskets?  They could be donated to local churches or community organizations that reach out to the homeless.  I rarely leave home without a skein of yarn and a crochet hook.  (I needed something to keep my hands busy after I quit smoking in 2007.  This is a much better habit!)  This year there will be 75 handmade pieces in the baskets with the food.  There are a lot of people out there like me.  Be creative.  Plan ahead.  Most of all; get involved.

A Minnesota Spirit of Giving

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–some as early as 4:00 AM.  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.