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"it is all about family and friends..."

Volunteers dish out Thanksgiving tradition

Steve Powell
The Olympian

OLYMPIA It takes a community to feed a community.

Well, it took at least dozens of volunteers to feed about 1,000 people Wednesday at the 37th annual Barb O'Neill Thanksgiving feast at The United Churches.

Behind all those volunteers again, in a wheelchair with oxygen tanks, was the event's namesake.

"She called us at 4 o'clock (in the morning Wednesday) from the other side of the house to make sure we had talked to Costco," daughter-in-law Mily O'Neill said.

She and her husband, Rodney, not only care for his mother but have run the free community meals the past few years, when Barb O'Neill developed health problems.

"She's a wealth of knowledge," Mily O'Neill said.

As people stood in line to visit with Barb O'Neill, Mily O'Neill wiped a tear away.

"I'm so proud she's here," Mily O'Neill said. "Some of these people we see just once a year at the holidays. That people make time for it in their busy schedules is very touching."

The event resembles a family reunion, with impromptu singing of "Amazing Grace" and "Lean on Me." Students volunteering from Timberline High School and elsewhere visited with those eating the meal, some of whom are homeless or low-income.

"I get a good feeling helping out," said first-time volunteer Joshua Novelo, who attends South Sound High School. "If I was in that position, I would love for people to do this for me."

Scott Bishop of Olympia has volunteered at the meal for 10 years. The retired computer programmer for the state spends most of his time volunteering for groups such as Habitat for Humanity and a food co-op.

"People who volunteer are nice, so they are nice to work with, and bosses treat you nice because they want you to come back," he said.

This year's event included 25 turkeys and hams and up to 400 pounds of potatoes, Mily O'Neill said.

"What we don't use, we give to the Salvation Army," she said. "Nothing goes to waste."

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Updated 2010/11/30 09:12:24

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