More than 2,000 eat turkey at Elk's Lodge

Oak Harbor resident Robert Gomez and his 2-year-old daughter Christina sit down to dine on all the goodies offered at the Elks Lodge. - Jim Woolbright
Oak Harbor resident Robert Gomez and his 2-year-old daughter Christina sit down to dine on all the goodies offered at the Elks Lodge.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright

More than 2,000 diners attended the Community Harvest Dinner at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, which in its second year is turning into an annual Thanksgiving holiday event.

“It’s awesome for the community to have come together like this, and anywhere else it wouldn’t have gone over as well,” said event co-chair Keith Bartlett.

Whether people stopped by the lodge, took orders to go, or had food delivered, volunteers were on their toes all day to help dish out the 1,200 pounds of turkey, 300 pounds of ham, and endless edible odds and ends that made the day special. Diners could even indulge by nibbling on some of the 10 pounds of smoked salmon that was donated.

“We were able to go out and buy all the little stuff that makes it like going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving,” Bartlett said. “The tables were never empty, and I was running to the store all day for all sorts of things like individual milks.”

The dinner was offered to anyone in the community free of charge, however, any donations made will benefit the scholarship fund the Elks hand out to area high school seniors each year. Bartlett said those who were donating were “doing so generously,” and $1,800 was collected for the fund.

This year’s attendance was four times that of last year but over 100 volunteers helped make it happen Thanksgiving Day, according to Bartlett.

“It went beautiful, and smoothly. The volunteers really enjoyed themselves and the time went fast. It was well received by both the volunteers and participants,” said co-chair Jack Stiltz.

The bounty on the tables never thinned, even though the food continued to be dished through out the day.

“People really gave from the heart for this. The community really came together and became a part of the event,” Bartlett said. “This is what happens when we come together on Whidbey and everyone should pat themselves on the back.”

Young, old and in between were seen at the dinner. From local Whidbey historian Dorothy Neil, 93, to the newest of newborns, the demographics were widespread.

“This wasn’t just a dinner for the homeless, this had nothing to do with that. This was for the community, and there were so many different groups there who represented that idea -- whole families were walking in,” said Bartlett.

Organizers like Bartlett hope the dinner at the Elks continues to be a Whidbey Island Thanksgiving tradition, and preparations for next year are already on their minds.

“We want to get the word out earlier, because there’s a lot of people out there who can use this,” Bartlett said as he asked, “Why sit alone on Thanksgiving?”

You can reach Whidbey News-Times staff intern Cynthia Woolbright at cwoolbright@whidbey or call 675-6611.

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