By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The 150 people served Wednesday afternoon were in many ways a family.
They said they often eat together at the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army soup kitchen, which is open from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and have gotten to know each other very well, said head cook Norma Davis.
After the meal was served, the dining room remained open so the diners could relax and chat with friends and loved ones, like any other family after their Thanksgiving meal, Davis said.
Given a struggling economy and high unemployment, the need for free meals has remained high for the past few years, with between 50 and 100 people eating at the soup kitchen almost every day it's open, she said.
“It's been more difficult for people,” Davis said.
Threatening clouds held back while a long line of people snaked up the driveway to the front door of the dining room at 206 S. Peabody St., then — just as the last of them filed inside for the opening blessing and grace given by Salvation Army Major Kathleen Johnson — the rain began to fall.
More than 25 volunteers helped prepare and serve the meal, Davis said.
“I had great help today. People were calling a week ahead to reserve a spot,” she said.
Victor Carter, a volunteer from Lake Stevens, helped serve coffee and other hot drinks to the long line of diners.
Several members of his family were volunteering at the Salvation Army dinner, and many more would be arriving for the family Thanksgiving, according to Carter.
“We are showing the love of God to people who need help, who need food. We're showing that there are people who still care,” he said.
Sisters Mary and Ronda Meech, 20 and 23, of Port Angeles ate together at one of the tables.
Ronda said that having free hot meals has been very helpful for low-income and homeless members of the community.
Mary said she has a disability and lives on assistance, so she eats some of her meals at the soup kitchen to help make ends meet.
Mary and Ronda were planning a family Thanksgiving today with their parents, but Wednesday was about being with the community they have come to know at the Salvation Army, they said.
“All the people here are really great,” Ronda said.
“Everyone is warm and welcoming, very respectful. You meet a good variety of people.”
Today, free public Thanksgiving feasts are scheduled in Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks.
Here is a sample, listed by community:
Queen of Angels
The fifth annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be served at the Queen of Angels gym, 209 W. 11th St., from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The dinner is free and open to the public.
Free raffle drawings will be held throughout the dinner.
Coats, hats and gloves will be distributed to the needy.
A visit from Santa Claus also is scheduled.
For more information, phone organizer Reath Ellefson at 360-460-3558.
The Sequim VFW will hold a community Thanksgiving feast at the VFW Annex, 169 E. Washington St., from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The public is invited.
To make a reservation, phone 360-683-9546.
Harvest Dinner set
The 10th annual free Harvest Dinner will be held at Sunshine Cafe, 145 W. Washington St., from noon to 4 p.m.
Owners Allen and Diane Drake hold the dinner each year to give back to the community.
Reservations are suggested.
For more information, phone 360-683-4282.
Hardy's hosts feast
Hardy's Market, 10200 Old Olympic Highway, will serve a free Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. until supplies are gone.
The meal is to thank customers for their support.
For more information, phone the market at 360-582-0240.
Forks center plans meal
A free Thanksgiving dinner will be held at the Forks Community Center, 91 Maple St., from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The meal is open to the public.
Everyone is welcome.
The meal is sponsored by the churches of Forks.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.