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Oak Harbor exudes Thanksgiving spirit

What do you get when you combine 650 pounds of ham, 230 turkeys, bushels of veggies, mountains of mashed potatoes, a sea of gravy, countless pies and nearly 400 volunteers?

An Oak Harbor family-style Thanksgiving feast for 5,313.

Last year’s Community Harvest dinner drew 4,900 people, said volunteer organizer K.C. Pohtilla.

“Each year it’s getting bigger and bigger,” she said.

The event has gained so much popularity with volunteers that Pohtilla had to put a cap to the number of helpers, although many of them showed up anyway to pitch in.

The Community Harvest dinner left such an impression on Kaye Erickson that she returned this year in hopes of volunteering; however she, too, was told to just enjoy herself, there was already plenty of help.

The 21-year resident of Coupeville described the event as “marvelous.”

Erickson will spend the Christmas holiday with her extended family, who live off island, but for Thanksgiving the trip was just a little too long. The family atmosphere of the Community Harvest is hard to beat, she said.

“It’s as though you already know everybody,” Erickson said, while waiting in line and chatting with other attendees. “I feel right at home.”

Across the room Melodee McIntire took in the celebratory scene as her children Trey, 6, and Mckenna, 3, polished off their dessert.

“I hope to help in the future,” she said, echoed by an exuberant backup chorus from her two little ones, although it may be a few years before they’re able to volunteer.

Despite tough times, the core crew of organizers expects to break even financially or come close to it, Pohtilla said of the dinner, which costs about $14,000 to put on. Close to $6,000 in donations arrived along with the masses of hungry Turkey-Day diners Thursday and a decent number of donations rolled in before the dinner.

Pohtilla expects the Community Harvest to continue its impressive growth pattern next year for the ninth annual event.

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