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With all the added stress of a pandemic weighing lives down during 2020, a local nonprofit is determined to ensure local families in need have plenty of food on the table for the holidays.

FISH Community Food Bank is in the preparation stages for its annual Thanksgiving dinner, and the show will go on with some major modifications due to COVID-19. FISH Director Peggy Morache said this year’s event, cosponsored by the Ellensburg Adult Activity Center, will not have the communal setting found in normal years.

“The event is going to happen as it has for many years, but it’ll be a little different this year,” she said. “We are going to do takeout only, and that’s obviously to accommodate the restrictions around COVID.”

The date of the event will stay consistent with previous ones, being held the day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25. The event will go from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Teanaway Hall on the Kittitas Valley Event Center grounds. She said the line will form from the 7th Avenue entrance to the fairgrounds for those who come to pick up food for their families.

“It’s going to be a full Thanksgiving dinner,” Morache said. “We have volunteers lined up and FISH’s Open Table meal service staff will be cooking. It’s going to be a terrific day.”

Morache said the event traditionally has served approximately 350 people, but they are expecting higher turnout numbers this year. With more people comes a higher need for food, and Morache said the food bank is stepping up to provide that. Although the event usually calls for 20 turkeys, she said they are preparing 25 to accommodate for the expected increase.

For those who want to help the cause, Morache said donating money can go a long way to buy food for the event with the largest expenditure being the turkeys. The turkeys don’t stop at the Thanksgiving event, either. Morache estimated that approximately 400 families in total benefit from the food bank during the holidays between the dinner event and from turkeys and dinner supplies that are distributed through the food bank’s pantry. She said volunteer opportunities for the event are still available, and those who are interested should contact the Adult Activity Center.

For those who would like to donate food, Morache said the most needed items during the holidays are the typical sides that ones would eat during a festive dinner, including green beans, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

She said some of the donations are used at the dinner event, and the rest are distributed through the pantry. Besides donating directly to the food bank, additional food donation locations in the community currently include Umpqua Bank and Brookside Funeral Home. The Central Washington University women’s soccer team is also holding a food drive from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in front of Nicholson Pavilion through the end of the week.

Morache said families interested in signing up for the turkey distribution program are going through the same process as in prior years, filling out a request and submitting it to the pantry if they are already a client. New clients must register with the food bank before submitting a request, and the deadline for requests is Nov. 12.

“Most years we distribute around 300 to 350 turkeys,” Morache said. “This year, we expect that number to go higher.”

With the expectation that more families will need help during this holiday season, Morache said the food bank will continue to step up to serve those needs in the safest way possible. As Thanksgiving approaches, she said that event is just the beginning of the food bank’s effort to make the holidays a bit brighter.

“Remember that there’s two huge feast days in the next 60 days,” she said. “One is Thanksgiving, but there’s still Christmas. People rely on us for their Christmas dinner as well, so we ask people to keep both of those events in mind to help their neighbors have a wonderful holiday.”

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