By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The fifth Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Port Angeles church drew about 700 to 800 to what has become the North Olympic Peninsula's largest turkey-day dinner.
“We cooked 22 turkeys this year,” said a beaming Reath Ellefson, a cancer survivor who organizes the annual dinner.
“We're running out of food fast.”
The free dinner was put on for those with no place to spend Thanksgiving and for those who can't afford to pay for a lavish meal.
The Queen of Angels gym was near its 260-person capacity midway thorough the four-hour feast.
Hungry individuals and families replaced those who parted with leftovers and holiday gift baskets from a free raffle. Coats, hats and gloves were distributed to the needy.
“It has been absolutely wonderful,” Ellefson said of the dinner.
Ellefson, 55, survived several types of cancer over the past two decades.
She thought the first Thanksgiving dinner she organized in 2008 would be her last.
Instead, she has shepherded an annual Thanksgiving Day feast that has grown exponentially since it drew about 160 in its inaugural year.
The Port Angeles meal at Queen of Angels drew about 250 guests in 2009, 300 in 2010 and 475 last year.
Ellefson coordinated scores of cooks, servers, greeters and others volunteers.
Meanwhile, the Sequim VFW hosted a community Thanksgiving feast that drew about 25 people.
The Forks Community Center also hosted 138 diners at the holiday feast sponsored by area churches.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.