Free Thanksgiving meal a community tradition

By Clay Schuldt
Caledonia Argus

Everyone has their own Thanksgiving traditions. For most people the tradition is to have a nice dinner with family. Unfortunately, not everyone in the Caledonia area has nearby family, but thankfully a new Thanksgiving tradition is available for those spending the holiday alone.

For the last few years Elsie’s Bar & Grill has served a free Thanksgiving day meal. Anyone who does not have dinner plans for the holiday is invited to join.

The menu consists of the traditional Thanksgivings day meal, including turkey, ham, gravy, mashed potatoes and more. The event is put on by Elsie Rud, Nicky Rud and Larry Salm.

“We want to get those that are alone,” Salm said. “It’s a lonely time of year and there really are a lot of people who are by themselves on this holiday.”

Salm further commented that in many ways the Caledonia community is one big family.

Salm said the idea for the Thanksgiving dinner came about when people started to realize there are a lot of elderly people in the Caledonia area with no family and nowhere to go on the special holiday. Similar meals are offered in La Crosse, but many people are unwilling or unable to travel that far.

The free meal is becoming a popular tradition. According to Salm, the number of guests attending the meal has increased every year, and he estimates that 300 guests will attend this year.

With the rise in the number of guests comes the need for volunteers. “We’re still looking for volunteers to help with the serving,” Salm said. Anyone who wishes to volunteer their time may call Elsie’s. Volunteers are needed for everything for dishing up food to driving delivery vehicles. “And if anyone would like to donate a pie or other type of dessert that would be fantastic.”

The meal is free, but donations will be accepted. Every year local businesses donate, and their help is greatly appreciated. “We really do appreciate donations; especially this year as the costs will be higher than previous years.”

Meals are available for delivery Salm said, adding, “We deliver quite a few to Whispering Pines and Loretto Heritage.”  The obvious reason for delivering to the elderly is not everyone can park in front of the restaurant. In addition, the weather is always unpredictable. Rides are also available for those wishing to attend the meal uptown.

Those who wish to order deliveries or takeout meals can call (507) 725-3313 to RSVP by Nov. 21. Volunteers will try to bring the meal at a time specified. Serving at Elsie’s is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.