CHIMACUM — Rita Hubbard has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Six weeks ago, she offered to coordinate the team of close to 100 enthusiastic volunteers that cheerfully creates the community feast and festive mood at the Tri-County Community Center on Thanksgiving Day.
This year’s crowd of guests, happily feasting on turkey and dressing, potatoes, green beans, cranberries and desserts, had no idea of the drama that occurred on Wednesday.
“It all began with a phone call to our chef yesterday afternoon,” Hubbard said. “He had a family emergency and had to leave town immediately. We were left with 15 turkeys, the vegetables, all the cooking … It wasn’t quite what we expected.”
A bit of a panic ensued.
However, happens in a community with a big volunteer ethic, word got out to John Foss, a regular volunteer at this and other community events.
He said, without hesitation, “I’d love to help.”
Foss studied at culinary school and has worked in many situations where 500 to 1,000 people are served on a regular basis.
Foss believes in giving.
“I want to give my skills to this community, and I cook to do that, among other things,” he said. “This is something I could do to help out.”
On Wednesday night, the food prep continued to 10:30 p.m. without too much of a gap in the schedule. The turkeys went in the oven at 5 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, and the final touches were added before the first guests arrived.
A well-choreographed dance happened between car parkers, greeters, servers, table hosts, bussers, plate scrapers and dishwashers. Everyone wore a smile.
According to Hubbard, the annual dinner is made possible by many companies, organizations and individuals.
“The table flowers are from the Nordland Garden Club. The East Jefferson Rotarian Interact students set up the tables and chairs. Farm’s Reach donated pies. Pane d’Amore gave us 350 rolls. Hadlock Building Supply helped with general supplies. Our turkeys were kept at QFC in cold storage waiting for our use. There are so many generous companies who helped with cash,” she said.
“We’re blessed to have this community response.”
Of the 250 guests who enjoyed the meal, Hubbard said there are three groups who all share in a meal.
“There are those who are truly needy, those who don’t want to fix an entire meal for a single or couple and those who come to socialize and celebrate. It’s really a wonderful coming together of our community,” Hubbard said.
In addition to on-site guests, five volunteer drivers were standing by to deliver 80 meals to homebound diners from Port Townsend to Port Hadlock.
“We want to make sure everyone who wants a meal has one,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard is grateful for all those who come together to make this event so important to so many.
Volunteering is something that is close to her heart. She considers being in service a way of life and is grateful to her mother for teaching her the gift of giving back.
“I never miss my family more than at Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. But now I have a bigger family to take care of,” she said with a smile.
Jeannie McMacken is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.