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Volunteers from the Ellensburg community came together Wednesday to make sure everybody in town had a happy Thanksgiving. The annual Community Thanksgiving invited everyone who needed a meal for the holiday, or who just wanted to be a part of the larger community.

“It’s a community effort and it’s a joy to see all of these people come together from different organizations… to make sure that our neighbors have Thanksgiving dinner. It makes the holiday for me every year to be honest,” said FISH food bank Executive Director Peggy Morache.

The menu was a classic Thanksgiving feast, with turkey, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables, cranberries, stuffing, rolls, gravy and pumpkin pie, according to Darren Mackri, FISH food services director and executive chef.

“It’s shocking how much the community actually does come together,” Mackri said. “I had a good idea that Ellensburg was a very nice place but this is just crazy. All the donated food, all these people taking the time out of their day. I’m blown away, it’s awesome.”

The event was brought to Ellensburg through a partnership between FISH, the Adult Activity Center and the Rotary Club. It has been a tradition in town for over 2 1/2 decades, and while it hasn’t been stopped by the coronavirus pandemic, it has been modified.

The classic community Thanksgiving would be a community feast, with people all eating under the same roof. However, for the last two years Thanksgiving meals are prepared indoors, and provided to people via a drive-through pickup. People did not need to leave their cars to get their turkey, instead it was brought to them.

Younger volunteers, like Amare Thorn, would ask how many meals a vehicle needed, then bring the food out to the cars. The meals were prepared and packed in Teanaway Hall on the fairgrounds. While some of the food was cooked in the hall, Mackri said a lot of it was made using the Rodeo City Barbecue kitchen, and then brought over to the hall.

The food was bought and prepared by FISH, and the volunteers were provided mostly through the Rotary Club and the Adult Activity Center. According Morache, the funding was provided through the Rotary Club and local donations.

“Last year we did about 350 (meals) this year we had planned on 500, and we did that because our numbers are up so much at FISH. We expect that we will feed more people this year,” Morache said. “We are up about 65% at our food pantry than we were last year, so we are planning more meals here this year. I hope we are wrong, I hope we have leftovers.”

Morache suspects more people are in need this year because of the pandemic. The money from the government stipend checks is most likely gone by now, and many people are still without jobs or a steady source of income.

On a brighter note, the community Thanksgiving had almost double the number of volunteers help prepare the meals. The event lasted from 3-6 p.m. and had two shifts of volunteers. For the first shift, 10 people had registered, but over 20 actually showed up to help.

“It’s a lot easier this year with volunteers. Last year we were not allowed to have external volunteers, and then we also kind of knew what to expect this year, so we knew how to set everything up,” said Adult Activity Center Coordinator Katelyn Clavette.