Volunteers needed for annual Thanksgiving dinner in Oak Harbor

Those who are far away from family, down on their luck, don’t like cooking and anyone else are invited to Oak Harbor’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner.

North Whidbey Community Harvest is hosting its 19th annual free feast 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 28 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, 155 N.E. Ernst St.

People who are homebound or stuck at work that day may also request to have a free meal delivered.

The huge effort still needs volunteers, said Skip Pohtilla, president of North Whidbey Community Harvest. It takes more than 300 volunteers throughout the day to set up, carve turkeys, serve, bus tables, coordinate parking, deliver and take down. Pohtilla said the greatest need is for more help during the 3-5 p.m. shift.

Afterward, fire department personnel will step in and do the bulk of the cleaning, he said.

Around 2,500 show up to the Elks and another 450 or so meals are delivered each year. This year, 100 turkeys will be deep-fried, another 90 will be smoked and 800 pounds of ham will be cooked.

This year, the smoking will be done in a 1,000-gallon smoker created for and used at this year’s Pigfest. Wes Young will be doing a test run with 40 turkeys the day before Thanksgiving and then he’ll show up around 5:30 a.m. on the day of the feast to prepare the rest of the birds.

He said he heard “great things from Pigfest” about the smoker’s abilities.

Chef Scott Fraser of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway is charged with sides such as mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, vegetables, ambrosia and salad.

Soon a crew will make its annual Costco run for the 180 pies.

“We shoot for a good meal and a family friendly atmosphere,” said Pohtilla.

Donations accepted at the event usually surpass the $22,000 expense of hosting the event and then go to scholarships for culinary students.

Anyone interested in volunteering or ordering a meal to be delivered may call 360-240-9499. Monetary donations may be sent to North Whidbey Community Harvest, c/o Skip Pohtilla, 1090 S.E. Hathaway St., Oak Harbor 98277.

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