Tyrah Galbraith of Port Angeles, left, shares food with her daughter, Makailia Galbraith, 4, during Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army kitchen in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Tyrah Galbraith of Port Angeles, left, shares food with her daughter, Makailia Galbraith, 4, during Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army kitchen in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Eve meal ‘a blessing’ in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving lunch Wednesday was much more than just a meal.

For Melinda Nettleton, who volunteers at the Salvation Army, that annual meal, held at 123 S. Peabody St., is a blessing.

“It’s more of a blessing than I thought I would ever have again in my life,” she said. “Once my family changed and there were no more Thanksgiving dinners, it was pretty painful.

“Now it’s a huge blessing.”

Nettleton knows first-hand what many of the Salvation Army’s clients — some of whom are homeless — are going through.

Many who frequent the Salvation Army don’t have family to spend the holiday season with, she said. For her and others, the Salvation Army and everyone who goes there is their family, she said.

“This is family,” she said. “It’s so funny because the people in real world, in society, don’t understand the way these guys look after each other.”

Nettleton uses her experience to talk to people who go to the Salvation Army.

She said the Salvation Army’s clients often need someone to talk to and they know she is a safe person.

“They are all just awesome and amazing people,” she said. “When you’ve been out there so long, you forget what people are really like. It dehumanizes you, basically.”

Nettleton said she used to have the same life as many of them but now has a life again.

“Yet I still know what it’s like behind those eyes,” she said. “I know how painful it is. I know how terrifying it is.”

Her hope is the community can look past their imperfections and understand the Salvation Army is doing the right thing. She said people need to accept that there are homeless people in Port Angeles and that they need to be cared for.

“The Salvation Army gets a bad rap and a lot of guff because of the care they give to the homeless community,” she said. “But what is the right thing? If they are not here, where are they?”

Volunteers such as Nettleton make people feel welcome and cared for at the Salvation Army, said Major Barbara Wehnau, who with her husband, Ron, began at the Salvation Army in June.

“Even our volunteers who come in, you can see that they really want to make a difference,” she said. “The difference is having someone to listen to and a smile.”

She said during this time of year, that is exactly what their clients need.

The holidays can bring up both good and bad memories for people, but it also makes them lonely, Wehnau said.

“Some of them really miss the family structure,” she said. “This is a place they know they can come to and be safe.”

For her, it’s not only rewarding, but also a calling to work with the Salvation Army.

“A lot of our clients, we know them by name,” Wehnau said. “They are not just ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’; they are cared for here.”

Wehnau estimated that about 25 volunteers helped provide the lunch Wednesday to about 200 people. Typically, the Salvation Army would provide a turkey lunch but was able to provide ham this year after receiving a donation of two pigs’ worth of ham.

The Salvation Army has already started ringing bells for its holiday fundraising campaign, Wehnau said, and is looking for more volunteers. Last year, the program raised more than $80,000 for the Salvation Army.

She said many who enjoyed the ham lunch Wednesday will likely go to the community Thanksgiving dinner at Queen of Angels Catholic Church today.

Among them is LaDonna Sickert, who said she has been going to the Salvation Army regularly since 2013.

Sickert said she knew just about everyone who dined Wednesday and was thankful the Salvation Army provided that meal. Sickert was previously homeless and goes to the Salvation Army to cook for its clients, she said.

“I was homeless with some of these people, and they watched out for me and my son,” she said. “When I got my place, I still help them.”

She said if there weren’t community meals available, she’d probably be cooking on Thanksgiving for a lot of the homeless anyway.

“Everybody would come over, eat and fill their tummies,” she said.

Here is a list of community feasts planned today:

PORT ANGELES

Community dinner

PORT ANGELES — The ninth annual edition of a free community Thanksgiving dinner will be offered at Queen of Angels Catholic Church from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the gymnasium of the church at 209 W. 11th St.

Anyone who doesn’t want to cook or be alone is welcome, said Emilie Thornton, one of the organizers. It’s nondenominational and open to all, she said.

Warm clothes — coats, hats and gloves — will be available for those who need them. The dinner will include a surprise visit from Santa, who will hand out gifts.

The free feast was begun in 2008 by three women, including Reath Ellefson, shortly after Ellefson was informed that her cancer had returned.

Nine years later, Ellefson — who won a 2015 Clallam County Community Service Award for organizing the community meal — is still working hard to create a welcoming place for any and all to go on Thanksgiving, Thornton said.

The gathering fed 1,182 people in 2015, Thornton said.

For more information or to get a ride or have assistance in seating, phone Thornton at 360-912-3934 or email talktoemilie@olypen.com.

SEQUIM

Community dinner

SEQUIM — The inaugural Sequim Community Thanksgiving Dinner is planned from 1 p.m.. to 4 p.m. at the Sequim unit of the Boys &Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.

The free meal at the club at 400 W. Fir St., will be hosted by the Sequim Food Bank and the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition.

The club’s game room will be open and football games will be on big screens.

Those who want to attend are asked to RSVP to Stephen Rosales, food bank board president, by calling him at 360-461-6038.

Thanksgiving meal

SEQUIM — A traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner will be served at Trinity United Methodist Church at 4 p.m.

Reservations for the meal at the church, 100 S. Blake Ave., were taken through Wednesday.

The free dinner is part of Trinity’s community dinner program. Dinners normally are served on the last Thursday of each month, but because of other holiday season activities, there will be no dinner in December.

VFW meal

SEQUIM — The Sequim post of Veterans of Foreign Wars will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for veterans and active-duty military service personnel.

The meal will be served from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Post 4760, 169 E. Washington St., Sequim.

Harvest Dinner

SEQUIM — The Sunshine Cafe will host its 14th annual Free Harvest Dinner from noon to 4 p.m. at the restaurant at 145 W. Washington St.

Reservations are suggested.

To make reservations or for more information, call the eatery at 360-683-4282.

Free meal

SEQUIM — Hardy’s Market will offer a free traditional Thanksgiving meal today.

The complimentary traditional meal will be offered while supplies last beginning at 11 a.m. at the market at 10200 Old Olympic Highway.

Meals can be dine-in or take-out, one per person.

Managers request that no one come early.

FORKS

Churches host dinner

FORKS — The Feeding of the 5,000 group, in collaboration with Forks-area churches, will provide a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Forks Community Center, 91 Maple Ave.

Dinner is free, but donations will be accepted.

Forks churches will donate the food, said Laura LaFrenz, an organizer.

Last year, the group fed between 120 and 140 people, she added.

For more information, phone LaFrenz at 360-374-4093.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Volunteer servers, from left, Robert Shinn, Doyle Shofstall, Larry Bennett, Amanda Wagner and Sally Bertrand prepare meal plates during the Port Angeles Salvation Army’s annual pre-Thanksgiving lunch on Wednesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Volunteer servers, from left, Robert Shinn, Doyle Shofstall, Larry Bennett, Amanda Wagner and Sally Bertrand prepare meal plates during the Port Angeles Salvation Army’s annual pre-Thanksgiving lunch on Wednesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Volunteer Nick Sudela of Port Angeles serves desserts at the Salvation Army’s annual pre-Thanksgiving lunch in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Volunteer Nick Sudela of Port Angeles serves desserts at the Salvation Army’s annual pre-Thanksgiving lunch in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

More in News

Port Angeles School Superintendent Marty Brewer, second from right, speaks with members of the Port Angeles Parents for Education, on Friday about the Port Angeles Paraeducation Association strike. Assistant Superintendent Michele Olsen stands at right. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula Daily News)
District, PAPEA to pick up bargaining Sunday

Parent group presses officials for answers on strike

Instructor Josh Taylor, left, points out the workings of an electric vehicle on Wednesday at the Auto Technology Certification Program at Peninsula College. Nick Schommer, center, and Brian Selk get ready to do some testing on the electric auto’s parts from underneath the vehicle. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
College’s automotive technology program gets a reboot

Students can earn a certificate separate from two-year degree

Port Townsend transportation tax dollars to be put to work

Benefits district to raise $400,000 to $600,000 in first year

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
Retired teacher Nancy McCaleb speaks in support of striking paraeducators in the Port Angeles School District as Port Angeles Paraeducators Association President Rebecca Winters listens during a rally on Thursday at Shane Park.
About 130 rally in support of paras

District officials say funding is statewide problem

Mark Nichols.
Proposed changes to public defender caseloads could hurt rural counties

Annual limits starting in 2025 may create staffing issues

Fernando Cruz of Auburn, an employee of Specialized Pavement Marking in Pacific, cleans off a sign he used to paint a bicycle lane on Sims Way and Kearney Street, the site of the new roundabout. The workers needed at least two days of 47 degrees or above in order to paint the pedestrian crosswalks and other necessary markings. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
New bike lane in Port Townsend

Fernando Cruz of Auburn, an employee of Specialized Pavement Marking in Pacific,… Continue reading

Two-lane bypass to be installed Monday

Contractor crews working for the state Department of Transportation will… Continue reading

Twice daily bridge inspections start next week

Bridge preservation engineers from the state Department of Transportation will… Continue reading

Funding farm-to-school programs

In the 2021-2023 state budget, Washington set aside money specifically for the… Continue reading

Gus Griffin, 11, second from left, and classmates dig up weeds in one of Port Townsend’s three gardens on March 28. (Grace Deng/Washington State Standard)
Farm-to-school programs flourish in Washington

Demand from school districts outpacing state funding

Jefferson enacts 1-year moratorium on STRs

County wants to consider possible regulations for rentals