Free Community Thanksgiving celebrates 18 years

When Minnie and Jim Kynch moved to the San Juans, they missed the East Coast and their family-filled Thanksgivings, where laughter rang through the house and the aroma of pumpkin pie lingered in every room.

“We knew there were a lot of other people on the islands whose families were far away,” Minnie Kynch said, explaining that holiday traveling can be hectic and expensive. In an attempt to bring people together, the Kynchs launched the first Community Thanksgiving Dinner 18 years ago.

The free, traditional Thanksgiving feast runs noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 24 at the Mullis Community Senior Center in Friday Harbor. Everyone is welcome, but volunteers are still very much needed. From roasting turkeys, bringing a pie or greeting guests as they arrive at the event, there is plenty of work to go around. Kynch urges volunteers to sign up ahead of time, to help the dinner committee prepare. Kynch has a list of odd jobs for those who decide to attend last-minute and want to take part.

“Most attendees do volunteer in some way because they like participating in the event, not just showing up,” Kynch said, adding that it truly is a community dinner since local service groups including the Lions, Kiwanis, Soroptimists, and the Rotary all contribute financially and with volunteers. Local businesses are also involved, according to Kynch. Kings Market donates 36 turkeys, and Printonyx, M&W Auto and Islanders Insurance pitch in as well.

The event has become so popular that more than 500 people attended last year and the dinner outgrew its original location at the Grange. The Mullis Community Senior Center has both a larger dining space, and a bigger kitchen to accommodate the growing crowd.

Some recipes will be changed up this year. For example, there will be spiced peaches rather than Waldorf salad, but the basic Thanksgiving foods will remain the same, according to Kynch. As far as entertainment, she said, the crowd usually does a good job entertaining themselves.

“You never know what will happen,” Kynch said, telling the story of one year when a student from Spring Street International School came and juggled for everyone. Another year an attendee brought nose whistles for everyone. With the new venue at the Mullis Community Senior Center, those interested in watching the football game won’t be left out – the center’s TV will be on, with the sound down.

While politics is not on the menu, Kynch said that after such a contentious year, she is hoping that people with opposing views can sit down and break bread together in peace.

“We have a lot to be thankful for. We live in a wonderful place,” Kynch said.

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