Parish volunteers serve Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds in Burlington

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Katey Muenzberg and Grace Wiseman, parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Seattle, prepare mashed potatoes for a November 17 Thanksgiving dinner at the Tri-Parish Food Bank in Burlington. Photo: Sheila Marty Katey Muenzberg and Grace Wiseman, parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Seattle, prepare mashed potatoes for a November 17 Thanksgiving dinner at the Tri-Parish Food Bank in Burlington. Photo: Sheila Marty

BURLINGTONSome 500 people who showed up November 17 for the weekly meal at the Tri-Parish Food Bank were treated to a Thanksgiving-style dinner prepared by volunteers from at least five parishes.

“We want to make sure everyone in the community has a nice dinner just like we would,” said Jose Ortiz, director of the Tri-Parish Food Bank at St. Charles Parish in Burlington that is a collaboration of St. Charles, Immaculate Conception Parish in Mount Vernon and Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner.

More than 75 volunteers helped with the event, including members of three parishes plus parishioners from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Seattle and St. John Vianney Parish in Kirkland.

“We peeled three cases of potatoes [and] made mashed potatoes and gravy” for the fried-chicken dinner said Sheila Marty, administrative assistant at St. John who volunteered with 30 others from her parish. “We were able to meet the people face-to-face we were serving,” she added.

Tri-Parish Food BankA group of young parishioners from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Seattle help sort and pack food at the Tri-Parish Food Bank at St. Charles Parish in Burlington November 17. Clockwise from right are Henry Wiseman, Naomi Nenninger, Xuan Mai Flynn and Mac Smith. Photo: Sheila Connolly

The St. John’s group started out at 7 a.m. with a prayer in the parish parking lot, arriving back home by early evening, said parishioner Lisette Nenninger, who helped serve meals, held babies for parents and supported teenage volunteers.

“We had a great mixed-aged group” that included several high school students, mothers with children and a couple of empty-nesters, Nenninger said.

Children and teens greeted visitors and seated them at tables, where other volunteers served them their meals. “We wanted to make it feel like a restaurant,” Ortiz explained.

“It’s just so moving to see people help other people in the name of our shared faith,” said Shiela Connolly, director of faith formation at St. John’s.

The parish participates in the Youth Migrant Project that is based at St. Charles Parish and organized by Ortiz. When the parish youth wrapped up their volunteer week in late August, Connolly asked Ortiz about ways the parish can continue helping out; he suggested volunteering at the Thanksgiving dinner, she said.

Tri-Parish Food BankSome of the 500 guests at the Tri-Parish Food Bank in Burlington enjoy a Thanksgiving-style dinner November 17. Photo: Sheila Marty

Ortiz has organized the dinner for about 10 years. Before that, Ortiz and his family cooked dinners and delivered them to families in need.

“We thought we would be able to multiply it if we could do a dinner for the community,” Ortiz explained.

Besides preparing and serving the meal from noon to 4 p.m., volunteers sorted items at the food bank and helped distribute food to those seeking assistance. On a typical Saturday, Ortiz said, 200 to 250 families (or 800-1,000 individuals) receive food bank assistance. In addition, some 200 people partake of the weekly hot meal, which is usually soup he said.

Now Ortiz is preparing for the next holiday event: a Dec. 15 meal, toy distribution and — weather permitting — a small carnival. Groups from St. James Cathedral and O’Dea High School will be making the trip north to help out, he said.

Tri-Parish Food BankVolunteers from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Seattle get ready to leave for a day helping serve those in need at the Tri-Parish Food Bank at St. Charles Parish in Burlington. Photo: Mary Wiseman