WARRENTON — “It’s such a happy surprise,” said 81-year-old Elise Chubinski, waiting outside her home in Warrenton Thursday afternoon.
Chubinski was approached by Thankful Hearts volunteers Vern Lamping and Carl Burkhart, out delivering about 25 Thanksgiving meals to local residents. Chubinski’s family is in California, and she and a friend planned to take their meals and some seed out for a picnic and bird-watching by the water.
“That’s the best offer I’ve had all month,” Chubinski said after Burkhart urged her to instead join the festivities at “A Community Day of Thanks,” the free Thanksgiving feast in its fifth year at the Warrenton Community Center.
At the center Thursday, Burkhart and group of about 20 Thankful Hearts volunteers served hundreds of dinners to all comers in one of the region’s several free Thanksgiving feasts.
Lisa Lamping and longtime friends, Dianne Burkhart and Kellie Clark, organized the event after talking to friends who make meals on the Long Beach (Wash.) Peninsula. “Dianne was talking to us about how cool that was, and we were all sitting around one day and said ‘why not?’ Let’s do this’,” Lamping said
With volunteers largely culled from friends and family, Dianne Burkhart said Thankful Hearts has fed 225 to 250 people a year on about $1,000 worth of groceries, paid for through donations. The dinner includes all the most ubiquitous Thanksgiving staples, such as turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, spiced yams, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce and ambrosia. Many of the desserts are donated by community members, including award-winning baker Muriel Dunn, who Lamping said has sold pies at auction for $800.
The volunteers cook much of the food the day before, then gather on Thanksgiving to heat it up, mash potatoes, set tables and sit down for their own bite to eat before opening the doors.
“They don’t have to be homeless or needy,” Lamping said. “If you don’t want to be around your relatives, come be with us.”
Bud Haskell, 87, sat eating his dinner Thursday, a photo of him and his late wife, Ruth, propped up on the table in front of him.
“She wasn’t with me for Christmas, but she’s here with me today,” Haskell said, adding he is thankful just to have a place to go be with people, get off the street have a Thanksgiving meal.
Noble Benson, who traveled from West Virginia to enroll in the seamanship program at Tongue Point Job Corps Center, said he was one of only about 40 students left on campus. A family he befriended at the First Baptist Church in Astoria invited him to the event, and he said he would have been sleeping in his dorm if not for the Day of Thanks.
Many of the volunteers are drawn through their friendships. Lavaudus Scott, a transplant from South Carolina who had visited the coast before moving a little over a year ago, said Lamping paid for his ticket to come out, and her family put him up while he got on his feet on the other side of the country.
“She helped me understand that actions speak louder than words,” Scott said Thursday, while greeting guests to the community center.
Another grateful volunteer Thursday was Lisa Lamping’s daughter Katie, who two weeks ago narrowly escaped with her life.
Katie, a nurse’s assistant at Providence Seaside Hospital, laid down for a nap on her mother’s couch earlier this month after the two had gone out to lunch.
“She came in and found me in various stages of cardiac arrest,” Katie Lamping said of her ordeal. “I was still breathing, but I didn’t have a pulse.”
Katie Lamping was rushed first to Columbia Memorial Hospital then to Oregon Health & Science University, where she said doctors planned to purposely put her into a coma and cool her body down to slow the loss of brain cells. She said members from her church came to pray for her, and by the next morning, she had woken up and started a quick and full recovery.
Only about 10 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest survive, according to the American Heart Association, and 30 percent when a bystander quickly notices.
Katie Lamping has tubular sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow on the brain and vital organs. She said doctors installed a defibrillator to kick-start her heart if necessary and soon cleared her to resume her volunteer activities, which range from medical work in developing nations to serving Thanksgiving dinners each year at the Day of Thanks.
“I’m thankful for being alive,” she said. “I’m thankful for my family and friends.”