Residents who fled fire treated to early Thanksgiving dinner

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s been two months since the fire took the life of her friend and neighbor and damaged the building in which she lives.

But Alessa Banta is still thankful.

“It was very traumatic, but it could have been so much worse,” Banta said.

“I talked to one of the first group of firefighters, and he said when they drove up, they didn’t know if they were going to able to save the building.”

Banta is a resident of the Marine Plaza Apartments, where a fire that started in the apartment of Donna Walden took her life.

Some residents on the same floor are still unable to return to their homes.

But on Sunday, they gathered with neighbors to share Thanksgiving dinner as guests of a nearby church.

“We wanted to tell you we care about you,” the Rev. Wendell Ankeny said.

“We are your closest church neighbor.”

Getting to know you

Ankeny is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, whose members decided to host the meal as a way to get to know their neighbors.

Under the direction of “head chef” Brian Norvell, the cooking crew roasted three turkeys and prepared pans of dressing, pots of mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

For Virgil Porter, the meal tasted especially good.

“We really appreciate having a good meal,” he said.

“I’ve been living in the Hadlock Hotel and eating at restaurants. It’s not been very balanced meals.”

It was church member Shirley Williams who came up with the idea for hosting the dinner for Marine Plaza residents.

Williams is head of disaster health services for the Olympic Peninsula Red Cross and came to know Marine Plaza residents after the fire.

She also knew that the church is always looking for ways to reach out to the community.

Fifteen of the apartment’s residents, including Lucretia Flores, took the church up on the invitation.

“It was a surprise,” Flores says. “What a treat.”

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