Lifestyle

One-man Army supplies North Whidbey Help House

PFC Mark Fakkema starts unloading the turkeys and other items he purchased with his own money to assure a merry Christmas for 14 North Whidbey families. Helping is his grandfather, Chuck Fakkema.  - Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times
PFC Mark Fakkema starts unloading the turkeys and other items he purchased with his own money to assure a merry Christmas for 14 North Whidbey families. Helping is his grandfather, Chuck Fakkema.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times

An Army of one has provided enough food for 14 families depending on North Whidbey Help House for a merry Christmas.

At Help House headquarters, they knew U.S. Army Private First Class Mark Fakkema was coming on Wednesday. “There’s his blue SUV,” said Help House Executive Director Jean Wieman as she looked out her office window down Hathaway Street.

Fakkema was coming directly from the Navy commissary where he used his own money to purchase 14 turkeys and all the trimmings, plus some toys for kids.

“He’s very generous,” Wieman said. “But that’s Oak Harbor. Donations have been wonderful this year.”

Mark Fakkema’s proud grandfather, Chuck Fakkema, was waiting to help unload the turkeys and other goodies.

“He didn’t tell anybody,” Chuck Fakkema said of his grandson’s charitable intentions. He found it ironic that while thousands of Americans are sending holiday gifts to troops in the Middle East, this one particular troop came home to give to people here.

Mark Fakkema can’t say exactly where he’s stationed in the Middle East for security reasons. But he helps man a Patriot missile battery, and he only had two weeks to come home for the holiday. He’s staying with his grandparents, Chuck and Marlene.

His grandfather said Mark started planning his donation after Thanksgiving so he’d know exactly what to buy when he got home. “He always gets his ducks in a row,” he said proudly.

U.S. Army privates are known for their patriotism and courage, but not so much for their income. The donation took a good portion of Fakkema’s paycheck, but he wasn’t complaining.

A man of few words, he succinctly explained his reason for giving so much.

“Just to be nice,” he said.

Fakkema will soon be heading back to the Middle East and away from the cool, moist weather of Oak Harbor. He lived here through the seventh grade and still considers it home.

“The coldest day he’s seen was 103 degrees,” said Chuck Fakkema of Mark’s tour. “The day he left to come home it was raining for the first time since around March.”

Thanks to Mark Fakkema, a lot of North Whidbey families will feel a little warmer this Christmas, and many no doubt will be saying a special prayer for him as he heads back to the danger zone on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Meanwhile, Help House volunteers and employees are still busy distributing food this Christmas season. Wieman said work will continue through Christmas Eve. People still have time to “adopt a family,” by calling 675-0681.

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