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Planning the big meal

Get ready for good eating, as island organizations and volunteers are gearing up to set a hearty table for the Nov. 22 Thanksgiving holiday.

The pilgrims would be proud of the efforts now being undertaken by countless volunteers coordinated by K.C. Pohtilla, all working to prepare a huge Thanksgiving feast for the Community Harvest Celebration to be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.

“This event has continued thanks to the efforts of a core group of roughly eight people who coordinate it all,” Pohtilla said. “And by the more than 300 volunteers who help with the many tasks required to make it work, and those organizations and individuals who so generously contribute money.”

Hundreds will flock to the Elks Lodge to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast conceptualized by Keith Bartlett and Jack Stiltz who decided the meal should be free to all and no one excluded, even for those who can’t get out of the house — so meals are delivered to them.

Donations are gladly accepted to fund this year’s meal and get a jump start on planning next year. If you already have plans but think the community meal sounds nice, you can make a donation at Bay Printing on Barrington Drive.

Volunteers are still needed to cook every delicious Thanksgiving dish imaginable, serve it up at the Elks Lodge and keep the food coming, clear the tables, pack up dinners for delivery and bring good food tidings to those homebound. Call 679-2425.

Everyone is also invited to come, bring a dish and share in the Coupeville community Thanksgiving, from noon until the food is gone, Nov. 22 at the Coupeville Recreation Hall. This annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner is a smoke and alcohol free event. It is a free potluck dinner and all are welcome.

Ann Wilson, a member of the volunteer committee working to organize the annual Thanksgiving potluck, said the table is being set in hopes that 250 people will attend the Coupeville event.

“That’s what we saw last year,” she said. “It went really well, very smoothly.”

Registration for Thanksgiving meal baskets has been open for two weeks at Help House food bank in Oak Harbor. And even though people can continue to register through Thanksgiving, Help House director Jean Wieman said things are already looking on track to surpass last year’s numbers.

“We’re looking to go a bit higher than last year,” she said.

As of Monday, 320 civilians requested Thanksgiving assistance and Wieman was still calculating military numbers. Last year the North Whidbey food bank served up 323 civilian baskets and 183 military.

Help House has put together holiday baskets every year since 1978. It is through the generous support of businesses such as Saar’s Marketplace and countless volunteers that the effort is made possible.

“The military is always good to us,” Wieman said. “Commands sign up to help us and that always makes a difference.”

As Thanksgiving is but a week away and the holidays just keep coming, Wieman gave some advice when it comes to charitable giving this holiday season.

“Make sure you know where your donations are going,” Wieman said. “When people see signs and collections for Northwest Harvest they have to realize the food doesn’t come here. They have to make sure they’re giving to their local food bank if they want to help feed the people of Whidbey.”

Registration for Christmas food basket distribution through Help House begins Nov. 28.

Additionally, Wieman said to remember that hunger in our community goes beyond the holidays

“People are hungry 365 days a year,” she said. “I love the holidays because that’s when we’re fat and happy and how we get stocked to start the year, but when March and April comes people forget us.”

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