Mark Davis knocked on the door of a quaint house on the outskirts of Hermiston while his mother Julie Davis stood waiting on the steps.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” Eva Frost, 90, exclaimed as she shuffled them into her house on Thursday morning. Julie, 47, and Mark, 21, gave lingering hugs to the woman and handed her some hot food. “Come in, come in. So tell me your names?”
Mark and Julie might have been strangers to Frost only seconds before, but on this day they were family.
The Davis’ were two of hundreds of people volunteering to hand out Thanksgiving meals in Hermiston Thursday. Most were at the Hermiston Senior Center greeting people as they arrived, seating guests and dishing out goodies — but the mother-and-son duo decided to also deliver food to the homebound.
“We were told they needed pairs to make deliveries,” Julie said.
With 35 turkeys, 60 pies, 15 boxes of mashed potatoes and four boxes of vegetables, the Hermiston Fellowship Thanksgiving Dinner has turned into a massive community endeavor. According to Laurie Ball-Kiser, over 200 people volunteered this year, and they planned to fill around 650 stomachs.
The reasons people show up to the community feast are diverse. They might be dealing with a tight budget, live alone and want the company, or decide to bring their families to volunteer for the day.
Some, like Donita Hooker, 48, are glad to avoid cooking.
“I love the fellowship, but I’m also happy I don’t have to be in the kitchen all day,” she said.
Long before she took over the Fellowship Dinner, Ball-Kiser started volunteering on holidays with her church nearly 25 years ago.
“I was newly divorced and estranged from my family,” she said. “I wanted to help rather than be helped so I made myself busy this way.”
Julie Davis said she started volunteering last year when her three adult children were all busy for Thanksgiving. She was so moved by the experience she made sure to come back and bring her son.
“I remember there was one little old lady that stayed for four hours,” Julie said. “She didn’t want to leave. There were a lot of teary-eyed moments, but it was so worth it.”
After chatting for a half hour about the parallel lives they have lived in Eastern Oregon and dropping off her meal, the Davis’ give two tight hugs again to Frost.
“Thank you, thank you so much for coming,” Frost said, her voice cracking as she held onto their hands.
Back in the car, Julie said she could tell Frost didn’t want them to leave.
“I didn’t want to leave,” Mark said.
Contact Natalie Wheeler at email@example.com and 541-564-4547.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.