Award winner fooled, but his generosity is no joke

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

MUSCATINE — Jim Weigand arrived at the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine’s award ceremony July 10 ready to support his daughter, Sandy, who was set to receive a prestigious award. Or, so he was told.

Lindsay Steele
Carol Weigand gives her husband, Jim, a kiss as he shows off the director’s chair he received for winning the Great Initiative Award from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. Jim, with the support of his wife, started a project nine years ago to make sure no one in Muscatine goes without a Thanksgiving dinner.

As Jim shared his excitement with family and friends at the Rendezvous banquet center in Muscatine, eyes rolled. They were in on a secret, and Jim didn’t suspect a thing.

That is, until members of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine (CFGM) approached the microphone and proceeded to tell Jim’s story. Jim then realized that the loved ones in the crowd — Sandy included — were actually there for him. CFGM representatives presented Jim with the Great Initiative Award for his work starting a Thanksgiving dinner program for the underprivileged in the community.

“I swear I did not know until that very minute!” he recalled, eyes widened with excitement. “I was shocked, pleasantly surprised. The first thing I did was give my wife, Carol, a kiss, and then I thanked Jesus.”

“To keep that secret was very hard,” Carol interjected.

For the past nine years, Jim has thrown his heart into a mission to make sure that no one in his community has to go without on Thanksgiving. It is his way of giving back to the world and serving God after recovering from a lengthy and difficult bout with colon cancer.

What started out with Jim and Carol donating one dinner turned into a much larger project which fed about 500 people last year. They can no longer do it alone, and Jim gives credit to those who help make the Thanksgiving dinner possible. “It’s not just about me,” Jim insists.

Annually, the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1305 and other volunteers organize a homemade beef and noodle supper fundraiser that brings in thousands of dollars for the Thanksgiving project. Businesses and individuals in the community show support through donations.

These donations are used to purchase complete Hy-Vee Thanks­giving dinners for Muscatine Center for Social Action’s homeless shelter, the Jesus Mission and individual families in need. Muscatine Hy-Vee offers the meals at a discounted rate.

Maggie Curry, director of the Muscatine Center for Social Action, nominated Jim for the CFGM award. She said the Thanksgiving dinner program helps fill a void for many people in Muscatine. “Jim is a very special person. It is heartwarming to see his contagious smile and the twinkle in his eye.”

She explained that Thanksgiving can be a depressing holiday for some people, and the “delicious hot turkey dinner with all the fixings can taste so good and warm so many hearts.” It also brings people together and creates an atmosphere of camaraderie. “This gift of love and sharing is a win/win situation.”

At the CFGM awards banquet, Jim received a personalized director’s chair. Though the chair is displayed prominently in Jim’s living room at home, he was even more excited about the $1,000 donation that accompanied it. “That really flipped me out,” he said. Though Thanksgiving is more than three months away, he is thinking about how many more people will be served this year with that money.

“I’m hoping to serve 600 people this year,” he said.

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