CHIMACUM — Orchestrators Anita Schmucker and Kellen Lynch paused for half a minute, just to marvel.
“It was pretty spectacular, I have to say,” Schmucker noted of the 347 Thanksgiving dinners assembled, carried out and delivered free of charge from the Tri-Area Community Center’s kitchen Thursday afternoon.
The feast was mirrored, with lesser numbers made available, by a walk-up delivery at Hardy’s Market in Sequim.
Lynch, a professional chef who joined the volunteer crew alongside his partner, Rachael Dunn, said the Tri-Area center’s operation was silken in its smoothness.
“It’s always a big undertaking when it’s all volunteers,” he said, “and it’s a sweet thing to see everyone come together and play their roles” in the production.
Lynch grew up in Port Townsend and went to culinary school in Seattle — but he supplied that information only after being pressed.
“I’m not doing anything more than anyone else” in this kitchen, he said.
Well, he did help manage the flow of workers so there was no tripping over one’s fellow volunteer.
“This is our first time” working this dinner, Lynch said, “but it won’t be the last.”
Thanksgiving 2020 was missing the big roomful of guests sitting down for dinner — a community feast of nourishment, hugs and conversation.
Instead it was a drive-through affair with volunteers herding cars around the building and organizer Rita Hubbard calling “Incoming!”
“I miss it inside, so much,” said longtime volunteer Jim Scarantino of Port Townsend.
But he and the crew stayed cheerful.
“Even if it’s distanced through a car window, a smile is essential,” said Schmucker.
She and four of her foster daughters, wearing their masks, had grins clearly visible in their eyes as they ladled out mashed potatoes and gravy.
“It’s just the gift of giving,” Schmucker said when asked what keeps her coming back year after year to serve Thanksgiving dinner at the center.
“With the virus,” she added, “we saw different names this year, which is interesting.”
People were encouraged to make advance reservations for their takeout dinners; 225 of those calls came in. Organizers planned for 300 and managed to stretch the turkey and trimmings out so no one was turned away.
Schmucker and her household will celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday with an outdoor get-together and a bonfire.
There have been leftovers from the Tri-Area center feast in the past, but “there is not a lick of food left,” she said as final floor-mopping got under way.
With no sit-down guests, “cleanup is not going to take long at all,” Schmucker added.
“See you at Christmas,” she told a departing reporter, holding two thumbs up.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, senior reporter in Jefferson County, can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected].