Thanksgiving dinner a token of gratitude for woman with cancer

PORT ANGELES — Reath Ellefson can’t imagine a better way to spend what may be her last Thanksgiving than serving eight turkeys and all the fixings to a crowd of people.

Ellefson, 51, survived several different kinds of cancer over the past 16 years, undergoing a host of treatments — both traditional and experimental — to extend her time with family and friends.

The ovarian cancer “has come back again,” she said on Wednesday, “and now it is to the point where I’m just living out my days.

“There isn’t much else they can do.”

So, she gave herself a present — making a big meal for people who have no other place to go on Thanksgiving.

Ellefson and two of her friends who work in the office at Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Tammy Gallagher and Eileen Knight, have organized a Thanksgiving Day dinner in the Queen of Angels gymnasium, 209 W. 11th St., Port Angeles.

The meal will be served from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. It is free and open to the public.

“We all have things that you want to do in your life time,” Ellefson said.

“This is one of those things for me.

“This town has been so wonderful, and it is a way of giving back.”

Three women

The public Thanksgiving dinner — the first to have been offered at Queen of Angels — isn’t sponsored by the church, Knight said.

The three women began talking three weeks ago about organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for everybody who wanted to share the meal with others.

“This is a place for all of those people to gather and to have a free meal,” Knight said.

The food was donated by individuals, grocery stores and other businesses.

“The church didn’t have to pay anything for it, and we didn’t have to pay anything for the food,” she said.

“Everything was donated. It was pretty heartwarming.”

Cooking turkeys

Ellefson, who has a background in catering, cooked eight turkeys on Wednesday to have them ready for the feast.

“I love to do things like this,” she said.

“I grew up poor, and I know that it is important to give back.

“I’ve been so lucky with all my friends who have been there for me through this whole ordeal. I am glad I can actually give something back.”

Ellefson said the feast is important to her, not only because “I was going to be by myself because my kids are out of town, but because of the way everything is right now with the economy.

“Anybody who will be alone or hurting — it is a perfect opportunity to get together with others.

“It is about community and about love.”

Inspirational

Knight said that despite her personal battles, Ellefson’s attitude has remained positive, Knight said.

“She has been such an inspiration even to the doctors who have treated her,” Knight said.

“She is still smiling, and has even given some inspirational talks for a convention of doctors.

“This dinner is really an uplifting thing for her.

“She has said she needs something to get her up in the morning, and this was something that filled the bill.

“I have never seen such enthusiasm and a spark of life for something.”

Ellefson said she also purchased small gifts for door prizes.

“I just thought it would be really neat to be able to give some things away,” she said.

“It can be a little like Christmas and Thanksgiving in one.”

__________

Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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