Sweetening the Thanksgiving meal

Culinary arts students at Oak Harbor High School are working hard to sweeten Thanksgiving.

They plan to have 1,200 cookies baked by Thanksgiving. Their goodies will be one of the desserts served at the free Thanksgiving dinner at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge on Thanksgiving Day.

While the Oak Harbor Thanksgiving dinner takes place, a similar event will happen in Coupeville for the seventh year at the Coupeville Recreation Hall

This is the first year that culinary art students helped with the Oak Harbor dinner. In addition to cookie baking, several students will spend their holiday serving food.

Louise Reuble, culinary arts teacher at the high school, said the opportunity to volunteer helps the students meet a graduation requirement.

“Our students need to do community service for their portfolio,” Reuble said. Students are required to perform three hours of community service.

Students also are happy to chip in with the holiday effort.

“I think it’s kind of fun,” said senior Sabrina Keach. “It’s fun knowing we can contribute.”

Another student echoed Keach’s sentiments.

“It’s a good thing to help out,” said senior Brittany Gaourel.

Reuble said the students should have the cookies prepared by today, Wednesday. The money for the cookie dough came from community donations. A food service distributor also donated two boxes of cookie dough.

The students became involved with the community dinner because one of the organizers, Scott Fraser, volunteers his culinary skills to coach the budding chefs.

Fraser said that any money left over from the Thanksgiving Dinner will be divvied up. Part will go toward next year’s dinner, and the remainder goes to the Help House of Whidbey Island and a Culinary Arts scholarship for any student continuing in that career field.

Fraser said he’s contacting officials from the Art Institute of Seattle to see if they are willing to match the money raised for the scholarship.

Meantime, preparations are in full swing for the community Thanksgiving dinner. This is the fourth year for the community Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, 4,000 were fed.

Tragedy struck last year when organizer and Pot Belly Deli Owner Keith Bartlett died while preparing food. But organizers are carrying on the tradition and expect even more people this year as word spreads about the dinner.

They are receiving tremendous community support. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, senior citizens and high school students are volunteering this year.

In addition to the 200 turkeys volunteers are preparing, smoked ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, pies, nuts and candies will be served Thursday. Food also will be delivered to people who have to work on Thanksgiving or are unable to leave their homes.

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