Community

Olympic High School reaches out to the homeless

Olympic High School junior Chris Howard and senior Falasha Traylor, co-chair of the event, prepare a pot of gravy for the Thanksgiving Outreach Dinner Tuesday at the Eagles Lodge on Sixth Street. - Steven DeDual/staff photo
Olympic High School junior Chris Howard and senior Falasha Traylor, co-chair of the event, prepare a pot of gravy for the Thanksgiving Outreach Dinner Tuesday at the Eagles Lodge on Sixth Street.
— image credit: Steven DeDual/staff photo

In the center of the kitchen, some Olympic High School seniors were carving turkey.

In another area, fresh potatoes were being cooked, as were sauteed onions, stuffing and the other elements of a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

For nine hours Tuesday, Olympic High School volunteers and members of the local chapter of the Association of Marketing Students, or DECA, served food to raise funds and products for the homeless as part of the 19th annual Thanksgiving Outreach Dinner at the Bremerton Eagles Lodge.

“The food is excellent,” Bremerton resident Ron Lindsey said. “I love the ham, but I’m not that picky, I just enjoy food.”

Chris Larsen, a community volunteer who annually helps with the dinner, was impressed with how much work the students put into the food.

“There’s lumps in the potatoes, man, they’re not even boxed,” he said.

Each year, a different student is picked to be the chairperson to organize the almost entirely student-run event, said Laurie Shaw, a marketing teacher at Olympic High School. This year, Cathy Deng, a senior, was picked for the position.

For Deng, the meal was a way to give back to the volunteers who supported her when she was diagnosed with a near-fatal brain infection in March.

“I was hospitalized for a month. I almost died,” she said. “It opened my eyes to see that I should help other people because some people are not fortunate enough to have warm food in their bellies.”

Deng said the students did a canned food drive and clothing drive, among other activities, during the past few months to raise funds for the event.

The students raised enough donations for 637 bags of food, which includes canned food, hygiene products and blankets.

Deng said the students worked in four-hour shifts, with the students in the kitchen working six-hour shifts.

About 2,200 people were served at the dinner in 2008. Deng said she thought attendance was even higher this year due to the economic downturn.

Shaw said it was a community effort to put the dinner together. The Navy even helped out with security.

“My battalion was coming down so I figured I would help out,” said Crystal Bell, a master of arms with the Mariner Corps security forces. “I volunteer for whatever I can.”

Shaw said the students engaged in a letter-writing campaign to receive donations, as well as through banners and fliers. But for the most part, the annual dinner has become a well-known event.

“The future is tomorrow, these kids are as good as it gets,” Larson said. “It would be so easy for these kids to get on KOMO if they hijacked a car outside or something but these kids wants to make this a happy Thanksgiving.”

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