APPLETON - Since the mid-‘80s, there hasn't been much of an excuse to miss out on eating a hot Christmas meal in the Fox Valley.
"It's hard to ask for a hand, but it's even harder to be lonely for the holiday," said Ed Rathsack, who has helped organize a meal for people every Christmas and Easter.
People can either eat the meal at the Moose Lodge in Appleton, or have one of 200 volunteers deliver it.
"A little bit of insanity and a lot of prayer and luck," said Rathsack.
This year, several sponsors didn't donate to the event, leaving its existence in doubt for the first time.
"We're always concerned," said Dave Delott, a volunteer at the event for 13 years. "There's always financial need. Always."
Rathsack decided to step up. He took out a loan to help cover the cost of 800 pounds of turkey and ham, 600 pounds of dressing and potatoes and the countless other fixings that make up the meal.
"It's worth every penny to my wife and myself," said Rathsack.
When the community heard about Rathsack's loan, they also came to the rescue.
"People have been donating," said Rathsack. "It looks like we might not have to borrow as much or anything."
"I was very concerned, but I know the Fox Valley area," said Susan Dietzen of Neenah. "People here are the most giving people I've ever met. I was sure somebody would respond. I'm sure there will be more people responding after this."
More than 1,000 meals were expected to be served at the Moose Lodge. Volunteers were planning to deliver more than 600 meals around the Fox Valley.
"People that are too proud to say they need help, but they want the meal, a lot of handicap, disabled people, they call up, can't get a ride, so we'll bring them a meal," said Rathsack.
"You couldn't get a better meal in any restaurant in this town," said Delott. "It's wonderful."
It's a tradition many hope will continue without anymore doubt for its future.
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