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By Jack Taylor For some people, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones and give thanks for a fruitful year. For others, it as a chance to give back to their communities through volunteering or donating to local organizations. This holiday season, many organizations in Whatcom County are holding free Thanksgiving meals and providing food to make meals to those in need.   Old Town Cafe When: Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Where: Located on 316 W Holly St. in downtown Bellingham Local restaurant Old Town Cafe will be serving its free holiday meal for the 47th year to those in need this Thanksgiving. Despite having a full volunteer list, Matthew Clauer, the general manager, said he encourages anyone to show up to the dinner to celebrate the long-standing tradition. Additionally, Clauer said what makes the event special is it is completely driven by members of the community. “It is completely volunteer run, and everything is donated by various community organizations,” Clauer said.   Lighthouse Mission While the Lighthouse Mission provides free meals to people experiencing homelessness year-round, a special Thanksgiving meal will be provided for those in need this season. When: Sunday, Nov. 25, from noon to 1:30 pm. Where: Lighthouse Mission on 910 W Holly St. in downtown Executive Director Hans Erchinger-Davis said while the mission already has enough volunteers for their Thanksgiving meal, they are currently looking for volunteers to help with the Christmas meal, which takes place on Christmas Day. Erchinger-Davis said the meal will be an opportunity to make connections with people experiencing homelessness in the community. “It is important on a few different levels. It’s important for us, because it is a relationship-builder with people that are on the streets,” Davis said. “If you are in survival mode, you have to have a level of trust that someone is there to help you, not hurt you.”   Ferndale Community Meals When: Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, at noon. Where: Located at United Church of Ferndale at 2034 Washington St. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up to through the church’s website, “[Providing a free Thanksgiving meal] is very important. It is very well received by the community, we often have 120 guests,” Robin Ogmundson, an employee of the church, said.   Project Hope Food Bank When: Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 3 to 6 p.m. Where: Hope Food Bank located at 205 South B.C. Ave. #105, Lynden While this Lynden-based food bank is not serving hot meals to people in need, they will be providing grocery items, such as turkeys and potatoes, to help families make a holiday meal. People can donate directly to the food bank at the address listed above, or donate through several food drives happening at Lynden schools. Some food items that people can donate year-round are canned goods such as canned fruit and beans or condiments like ketchup. Don Kok, director of the food bank, commented on the need the community has for the food bank. “Our goal is to be a food bridge. We are unable to provide all the needs of our community, but we can help fill the gap,” Kok said.   Salvation Army While the Salvation Army already held their free Thanksgiving meal on Sunday, Nov. 18, the organization has many more opportunities for volunteers to donate their time during the ongoing holiday season. Located at 2912 Northwest Ave. in Bellingham, the Salvation Army is still accepting food donations. According to employee Jen Gordon, last year the Salvation Army served around 350 people. Gordon said a hot holiday meal can make a lasting difference in someone's day, and encouraged people to volunteer wherever they can. “We want a safe space for people and families to be able to come in and enjoy a hot meal,” Gordon said. “Sometimes that is the difference from enjoying your day and not enjoying your day.” In December, the Salvation Army will be accepting donations of gifts that will be given to people in need for the holidays. They will also need volunteers to help sort Christmas toys before they are distributed throughout the community. While it is important to donate time and food during the holiday season, it is perhaps more vital to continually support those in need year-round, as many of these organizations take food and accept volunteers all year.  

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