CHIMACUM — Planning for a crowd of about 150 Christmas guests, Holiday Meals was ready for showtime at precisely noon as 16 people walked through the door of the Tri-Area Community Center on Tuesday.
Offering smiles and genuine heart-felt hellos, the all-volunteer team went to work in a choreographed dance to greet, serve and host their guests.
The nonprofit organization had 60 people sign-up to help with all facets of the event. Some had been volunteering for several years at past Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday dinners.
Several more learned about today’s event and wanted to take part in some way this year. Everyone had a role and kept busy.
Guests at the center enjoyed a home-cooked meal of ham, roasted potatoes, honey glazed carrots, salad and rolls. For dessert, Farms Reach Cafe donated 30 pumpkin pies. A young baker, 12-year old Bishop Stoker, made Christmas cookies and delivered them to the center as a special treat. Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) donated the use of the center.
For those would could not make it to the meal, volunteers drivers delivered 86 meals to go, all throughout the county.
Elana Lovato-Kraut and Bill Kraut of Hadlock Building Supply, Anita Schmucker, manager of First Security Bank, and Rita Hubbard of Port Townsend Paper formed the nonprofit Holiday Meals. Other board members include Kim Redmond, Andy Schmucker, Tabitha Miller and Gail Austaud.
“We need one more person for the board, someone who can help with fund raising ideas,” Lovato-Kraut said.
She said the organization has an anonymous benefactor who “has been quite generous.” Because of this kindness, Lovato-Kraut said the organization will add an Easter meal and begin serving one monthly supper meal on the third Sunday at the Tri-Area Community Center through 2019.
“We plan to offer a free, supper-style meal once a month beginning in January. We don’t want anyone to be hungry in Jefferson County,” she said.
She said the food won’t be as elaborate as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but will be good nourishment and give people the opportunity to gather around a table and make a connection with a neighbor.
This Christmas dinner was prepared by Chef Laurel Lancaster who is visiting from Maui, where she is a baker at the Kihei Caffe; she said they serve over 1,000 people every day.
Lancaster said that when Thysen Scott and Debi Scott who planned to prepare the Christmas meal but were called out of town, she agreed to step in, without hesitation. She said learned to cook from Scott and was honored to step in. The Scotts own GBF Catering in Port Ludlow.
Providing classic holiday music were Barb Lawson on keyboard and “Chicago Bob” Longmire on guitar.
“It always feels good to give back to the community,” Lawson said.
Table host Jen Clark of Port Townsend said she was happy to be part of the event.
“I was here on Thanksgiving volunteering and I see some of the same people back here today,” Clark said. “We make sure all our guests are treated with maximum service and graciousness.”
Guests Bret and Heidi Clark made the drive from Hansville to enjoy the camaraderie.
“We used to go to Port Townsend and stay at the Holly Hill House Bed & Breakfast,” Bret Clark said. “Driving by, we would see the sign.
“What do you do at Christmas?” he asked. “We don’t have family. Like at Thanksgiving, where you can be with people? At a restaurant? We ended up at a casino one year because the restaurant where we had reservations closed early. The food was OK, but it wasn’t a warm and inviting community like this.”
Said Heidi Clark: “We’ve been doing this for about four years. We’ve met people here in the past who were our neighbors and we didn’t even realize it. It’s a fun way to meet people, and you never know who you will run into.”
John Estes from Port Townsend, who sat with the Clarks whom he did not know, said he likes the family-style seating arrangement which encourages interesting conversations.
“You can sit down and share a meal with folks,” he said. “This is a great way to meet people, share a good meal, talk, and be part of a community. It’s fun coming here.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]