Lynette Schaner of Port Angeles and her granddaughter, Kalika Mulvaine, 10, go through the serving line during the annual community Thanksgiving dinner in the gym of Queen of Angels Catholic Church on Thursday in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Lynette Schaner of Port Angeles and her granddaughter, Kalika Mulvaine, 10, go through the serving line during the annual community Thanksgiving dinner in the gym of Queen of Angels Catholic Church on Thursday in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

From the rich to the homeless, Thanksgiving feast attracts 1,903 in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Cheri Knotts stood in line for 40 minutes before reaching the food at the record-breaking Thanksgiving dinner in the gym at Queen of Angels Catholic Church.

Knotts was among the 1,903 participants at the feast, a number that far exceeded the 1,182 who attended the event in 2015, said Reath Ellefson, who founded the event nine years ago.

“Right off the bat, we noticed it was a lot of homeless and a lot of needy families,” Ellefson said, shouting a “Bye, Santa!” to one of the event’s more distinctive attendees an hour before the doors closed at 4 p.m.

“We get all walks of life that come to dinner — rich people, white collar and blue collar, on welfare, just on the edge, week to week, and we get the homeless,” said Ellefson, the self-proclaimed “head chef and bottle washer” who started the event nine years ago.

Behind Knotts, a Port Angeles native, about 100 people, young and old, children and adults, waited their turn earlier Thursday at about 12:30 p.m. as they snaked along gymnasium walls that barely contained the holiday bustle.

“It’s really wonderful to have people do this,” said Knotts, 54, who lives in a fifth-wheel trailer with her husband, Spencer, 55.

Their chihuahua, Goober, was tucked in a chest pouch hanging from Knotts’ neck.

“Considering some other places I could be, it’s wonderful to have people that help,” said Knotts, who is disabled and like her husband walks with a cane.

There also were 199 volunteers who helped run the show.

Joined by Mayor Patrick Downie, they served slices of turkey and chunks of ham to dinnergoers who were allowed endless seconds.

They ladled out green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, two different kinds of ambrosia and apple salad and pea salad.

They cut, quartered and spooned a sugary cornucopia of desserts from cheesecake to pumpkin pie at a table punctuated, at its terminus, by Snickers bars for good measure.

And they scampered about with 500 to-go boxes that were gone by the end for those seated among the hungry and hungry-to-be.

“That kind of tells you people ate and ate and ate, and then they took some home with them,” Ellefson said.

After having their fill, many visited the church’s clothing room.

There, volunteer Marilyn Parks of Port Angeles said winter coats were the hot item.

Garments were stuffed into large, dark plastic bags before being hefted out the door.

Ellefson said 44 turkeys weighing at least 23 pounds each were prepared for the feast, which was not confined to those able to make their way to the church at 209 W. 11th St.

Thanksgiving dinners were prepared for 46 homebound residents, a nearly threefold increase compared to the 17 delivered in 2015.

One participant who was still able to make it was Clifford Folmsbee, 72, whose to-go box had two chocolate chip cookies stacked neatly on top.

As he sat waiting to leave, oxygen tubes arched like clear drinking straws from his nose, the wages, he said, of decades of smoking.

Folmsbee said he lives in a motor home in the woods in Joyce.

He worked shake mills in the area before they vanished.

“This makes me feel good,” he said of attending the dinner.

“I’m thankful to be alive.”

At the inaugural Sequim Community Thanksgiving Dinner, a variety of people showed up, said Stephen Rosales, Sequim Food Bank president.

The free meal at the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula drew about 150 people, he said.

“It was pretty good for the first year,” he said. “We plan on doing it every year.”

The dinner hosted by the Sequim Food Bank and the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition was attended by people in need as well as people who craved companionship.

“There were a lot of people by themselves,” Rosales said. “People sat around and talked for a long time.”

“We hope to expand it next year,” he said.

Other community meals on the North Olympic Peninsula were served in Forks and Chimacum.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Dinner organizer Reath Ellefson directs traffic with cooks and helpers in the kitchen of the Queen of Angels gym for Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Dinner organizer Reath Ellefson directs traffic with cooks and helpers in the kitchen of the Queen of Angels gym for Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Taz Love of Port Angeles plays the ukulele as her daughter, Shalom Love, 3, eats dinner at Thursday’s community Thanksgiving meal at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Taz Love of Port Angeles plays the ukulele as her daughter, Shalom Love, 3, eats dinner at Thursday’s community Thanksgiving meal at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Nathan Winters of Port Angeles says a prayer of thanks before his meal at Thursday’s community Thanksgiving dinner at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Nathan Winters of Port Angeles says a prayer of thanks before his meal at Thursday’s community Thanksgiving dinner at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

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