A 24-hour delay did little to dampen the enthusiasm of students, staff and community in Epworth, Dec. 16, as Western Dubuque High School hosted its fourth annual Bobcat Community Christmas.

Western Dubuque and Resources Unite partnered to host the free event, featuring a meal of chicken, pork loin or a vegetarian pasta dish. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn and dessert completed the offerings.

Staff member Becky Gasper was one of the countless volunteers taking part and assisted in preparing carry-out meals.

“This is my first time doing this. I just want to spread some holiday cheer,” said Gasper. “I’m glad to get to experience this.”

High School Principal Jake Feldmann explained the importance of serving the Western Dubuque community.

“My first year I wanted to get our students involved in service, and after that, I thought, ‘Let’s get our staff involved in giving back to the community that is always giving back to us.’ Our goal is to have our staff give back,” said Feldmann. “They’ve raised some of the money and food and we’re going to be close to around 1,200 meals. A little over half of the meals will be drive-up, a couple hundred will be delivered with our staff delivering and we have some dining in this year.

“Our kitchen staff, along with many others will prepare the meal. Our family consumer science students will cook our desserts.”

Drew and Shannon Russell, along with their children Charlie and Harrison, from Dyersville, enjoyed the dine-in option in the old high school gymnasium.

“This is perfect,” said Shannon Russell. “It brings everyone together.”

Feldmann was happy to see the community enjoying the meal in person.

“The idea from the very beginning was to follow CDC guidelines and to serve our community in a family-style,” Feldmann said. “Some people never get that opportunity in the holidays to sit and have a meal in that setting.”

Serving such a large number of meals requires plenty of folks willing to pitch in.

“We’ve had volunteers coming out of the woodwork,” said WD Food Service Director Kyle Gansen. “So many of our staff came back to help out.”

“Kathy Kiernan and Tim Greenwood went above and beyond, with Kathy preparing the vegetable lasagne and Tim taking care of the meat. Without those two this wouldn’t happen,” added Gansen. “This has been Jake’s vision. It’s awesome we’ve been able to keep this going through COVID.”

The evening wouldn’t have been complete without a special guest from the North Pole.

“Santa and his elves are here. Anyone under the age of 12 will be getting a free Christmas present.

“Our FBLA has done a toy drive, and anything we are short of, Josh Jasper, at Resources Unite, will support us with,” Feldmann said. “He’s been a good supporter of this all along.”

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

“There’s a ripple effect. We ask our community for a lot, and here’s one opportunity to give back and to show our kids that wherever they go, or end up, that they can give back and the importance of it,” Feldmann said. “It’s exciting and I want to continue giving back to this community. Our focus this year is ‘Be Kind’ and this is all part of that.”