PORT TOWNSEND — The 175 Thanksgiving meals served to guests of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend were a long time in the making, said the Rev. Dianne Andrews.
“It takes months of planning and more than 50 people to create this meal experience that we serve the day before Thanksgiving from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said Andrews, rector of the church.
“This is part of our community outreach, the biggest part of our weekly Wednesday ‘Just Soup’ program. We make this holiday special with linens and tablecloths, decorations, an attentive wait staff and lovingly prepared food. Everyone is welcome.”
Recent transplants to Port Townsend Saundra and Tom Micka were delightfully surprised to find this meal offering. They both like the fact that a variety of people — all ages, ethnicities, lifestyles and socioeconomic groups — sat at the same tables and shared conversations.
“We didn’t know what to expect. After learning about it in the paper, we decided to come by and check it out,” said Saundra. “We didn’t expect it to be so engaging and well-done. How nice to see the oldest church give this gift to the community.”
Elizabeth Bindschadler, along with Sue Cook and Linda Nolan, are the choreographers of the main event.
They organize the volunteers who chop, cook, serve, prepare the tables and clean up.
“On Wednesday morning, 25 people came ready to work, coordinating between the kitchen and dining room. There are two shifts; it’s a lot of work. It’s a really hopping place for four hours,” Bindschadler said.
How much food does one need to throw a Thanksgiving feast of this scope? Bindschadler tallies it up: “One hundred pounds of turkey breasts, 40 pounds of potatoes, 20 pounds of green beans, 30 pounds of corn, 4 gallons of gravy, 13 dozen yeast rolls, 12 pounds of butter, 4 gallons cranberry sauce, 2 gallons of half and half, four big steam table pans of stuffing and many, many gallons of celery and onions.
“We also offer Tofurky for those who want an alternative.
“And, of course, there are dozens of traditional pies and other dessert offerings, as well as gallons of coffee, tea and other beverages.”
The food is primarily funded by St. Paul’s as part of its ministry, but the church also accepts donations.
As for the holiday food prep, the chopping team is a most venerated group of volunteers. They skillfully work the day before, some with tears rolling down cheeks from piles of cubed onions.
“It’s like an Olympic sport. It’s wonderful to have these choppers organize and label bowls of prepped ingredients. It makes it easy to just grab and continue with a recipe,” Bindschadler said.
Kathy Ryan organized this year’s choppers: Allegra McFarland, Norma Van Valkenburg, Mark Adams, Barney Truman and Herb Tracy.
“This activity reminds me of preparing for the holidays around the kitchen table, talking to others and getting to know them, catching up … almost like visiting with family,” Ryan said.
“I volunteer because I like to see everyone fed and happy at this time of year, when sometimes there are those who lack the resources to prepare a meal like this on their own.”
Everyone has his or her own reasons for selfless volunteerism. But Truman said it best:
“I don’t need a reason.”
Jeannie McMacken is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.