Community rallies to volunteer for Saturday’s service in Oak Harbor

Food piles up fast in a volunteer’s car Saturday for the memorial service.   - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
Food piles up fast in a volunteer’s car Saturday for the memorial service.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

Even before 12:30 p.m. the cars began arriving.

Three people dropped off food just after noon, and they kept coming.

“That’s a lot of food in 15 minutes,” Michelle Curry said

On Nov. 13 a call to action went out the community for volunteers to assist with Janeah and Janesah Goheen’s memorial service Saturday, Nov. 16. Curry was one of the organizers and helped coordinate the effort from an idea that came from the family’s church members.

“They had a thought, and I ran with it,” Curry said. “There’s been a tremendous outpouring of support.”

Volunteers were asked to donate baked goods, fruit or vegetable trays and appetizers for the service. A drop off time and location was set for 12:30 -1 p.m. at Living Word Church.

Coupeville resident Renee Walstad helped coordinate the set-up upon the arrival of the food at Oak Harbor High School as volunteers shuttled goods to the location.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to this” Walstad said. “I grew up here and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

As the food arrived, Oak Harbor residents passed freshly baked cookies from their car windows. The plates were still warm when volunteers placed them in their cars. Everyone giving food kept apologizing for not having a nicer plate to present their donation on.

Eighty-four people shared the link from the Whidbey News-Times Facebook page when the call went out, and many people phoned to see how they could help in other ways.

Curry said she received a call from a woman in Everett Saturday morning who saw the News-Times Facebook post. The woman just wanted to say she was praying for the family.

Dawn Madeiros, who has known the Goheen family for more than a decade, said the community has been amazing.

“I’ve never seen this outpouring of love and support,” Madeiros said.

“This is an atomic bomb that went off, all the prayers and support from the community is the plume that is holding (the Goheen family) up right now.”

Her husband, David Madeiros, was there when Janesah Goheen passed away.

The twins touched so many people’s lives, no one really knew how far their influence reached, he said.

People are trying to find the good in this situation, Madeiros said. Youth groups at the churches around the area have increased, and congregations have been filled too.

“People’s lives are changing from this,” Madeiros said.

Many different churches came to help with set-up, the memorial service and clean-up, Madeiros said.

That way Life Church and Living Word Church congregations could participate in the memorial. Jim and Debbie Goheen, the twins’ parents, attended Life Church, and the girls went to Living Word.

As the food made it to the high school, Walstad directed volunteers. More than 10 large tables were setup in the cafeteria for after the memorial service. And still they had a classroom full of food.

“I don’t think Safeway has any cookies or vegetables left,” Walstad said.

Businesses and organizations also donated food for the service as well. Because of the surplus of donations, leftovers went to the Goheen family and their friends, Spin Cafe, Oak Harbor Fire Department, Oak Harbor Ambulance Service and Living Word Youth Group and the church’s other organizations, Curry said.

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley spoke at the service and addressed the resilience of the family and community.

He had recently attended the League of Cities conference in Seattle. Many city leaders measure a city by its population, lack of crime or financial solvency, but he had a different test.

“I think the true measure of a city is how its citizens react to a tragedy,” Dudley said.

“You’re not just residents, you are family, and Oak Harbor grieves with you.”


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