Island organizations spread a table of plenty this Thanksgiving
— Created November 16, 2022 by Melanie Hammons
By Melanie Hammons
The good news about Whidbey Island’s Thanksgiving is that there really is a lot to be thankful for when it comes to reaching out to those in need of a holiday meal. From north to south Whidbey, the holiday spirit is already on display, despite the absence of the much-loved North Whidbey Community Harvest, which will not take place this year.
Beginning with Oak Harbor, there’s North Whidbey Help House, whose year-round food pantry already supplies many local households. Thanksgiving is no exception says Executive Director Jean Wieman. “We do Thanksgiving food baskets with dressed, ready-for-the-oven turkeys, plus a few extra accompaniments thrown in,” Wieman said. “Our geographic area is Deception Pass to the Greenbank Store, and sign-ups are going on now. Folks may register right up until the day before Thanksgiving. We’ll be giving the Thanksgiving baskets out beginning on Friday, Nov. 18.”
As Wieman indicated, the meals may be picked up at the Help House at 1091 SE Hathaway in Oak Harbor. Wieman also reminds folks that they plan to offer baskets at Christmas as well. The Help House phone number is 360-675-0681 and its website is www.northwhidbeyhelphouse.org.
This year for the first time, local realtor Reid Schwartz has teamed up with Andy Plumlee of Popsies to offer Thanksgiving meals, too. Schwartz called it a two-sided effort that initially began with Plumlee offering to supply three Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
“It snowballed from there, to a goal of 50 meals,” Schwartz said. “I offered to solicit donations from other realtors to fund these, and [Plumlee] is collecting recipient names to put in a “giving” basket at Popsies. “Names will be drawn, and the ready-to-eat meals (from Safeway,) will be delivered on Tuesday, Nov. 22.” For more information, contact Schwartz at email@example.com while Plumlee may be reached at 360-240-8937. Or drop by Popsies, located at 851 SE Pioneer Way, #101 in Oak Harbor.
These outreaches couldn’t be more well-timed according to Skip Pohtilla, president of North Whidbey Community Harvest, which in the past has sponsored the community-wide Thanksgiving celebration at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. Pohtilla says the most touching moments of those Elks Lodge meals came “when perfect strangers sat down together at a table and became lifelong friends.”
“The pandemic forced us to cancel our customary community Thanksgiving meal at the Elks Lodge the past couple of years,” he said. “And although we weren’t able to pull it off this year either, due to having no venue, it’s gratifying that others are pitching in to extend the same sort of thoughtful service.”
Pohtilla said North Whidbey Community Harvest hopes to resume its usual sit-down Thanksgiving dinner celebration next year, and are even now laying plans in anticipation of that.
Moving on to Central Whidbey, there’s the Coupeville Community Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner, now in its 20th year. Held in Coupeville’s Recreation Hall, volunteer Lisa Bernhardt describes it.
“We have volunteers bring cooked turkeys, hams, gravy, etc., to the Recreation Hall located at 901 NW Alexander Street. All our locals are invited; they supply their own dishes and utensils.”
She characterized the attending recipients as mostly senior citizens. Although the meal is centered at the Rec Hall, Bernhardt says those with a home-bound family member are allowed to bring “a take-away dinner” back with them. For more information, contact Bernhardt; her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the telephone number is 360-421-8736.
Serving Central Whidbey and extending to the south end is the Mobile Turkey Unit, now in its 24th year. Co-president Gwendine Norton says Mobile Turkey Unit’s operation has always been based on a delivery mode, a feature that proved to be a godsend the past two years. The popularity of the service is borne out just in sheer numbers, she said.
“In the past, we’d anticipate around 200 requests for these meals. Over the past two years, it’s now ballooned to 700,” said Norton. The mouth-watering menu selections feature green bean casserole, turkey and stuffing, rolls and butter, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pie, “a whole pot of coffee, and a whole lot of love.” That love will be even more evident this year thanks to the hand-written cards from Coupeville Elementary fourth-graders placed in each order, Norton said.
It’s a lot of work to cook, deliver, and meet the safety protocols that come with ferrying hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners to Coupeville and south Whidbey residents, but “it’s a task that’s made vastly easier thanks to the 200-plus volunteers in the community who choose to step up each year,” she said.
Sign-up deadline for Mobile Turkey Unit is today, (Nov. 17,) but Norton affirms that, “if there are left-over meals, we’ll still be distributing them through the weekend.” She invites people to call 360-321-9782, or contact her at www.mobileturkeyunit.com.
Good Cheer Food Bank in Langley, like North Whidbey Help House, also stocks a year-round food pantry for people dealing with food uncertainty. And like the Help House, they offer something extra for Thanksgiving as well, says Stephanie Turco, Good Cheer’s co-executive director.
“We don’t do food baskets per se, but we do feature Thanksgiving-specific staples in our store. Those include not only the iconic Thanksgiving turkey, but other seasonal sides such as stuffing, canned vegetables, etc. People may come in and use earned points to “shop” for everything they need to supply their own little Thanksgiving feast,” she said. For more information, call 360-221-6454 or email them at email@example.com
As one can tell, Thanksgiving baskets and meals offered on Whidbey Island range from oven-ready to already cooked and even pick-your-own supplies to prepare. Some feature sit-down dinners, others are home-delivered, still others request recipient pick-up onsite. But however they’re offered, hopefully everyone on Whidbey will be able to enjoy a holiday meal this Thanksgiving.