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Whatcom County organizations continue their food drive and Thanksgiving meal services with new COVID-19 procedures

Thanksgiving meal services and food drives change their protocols to ensure that volunteers and guests are as safe as possible

CAST volunteers hand out food in front of the Bellingham Public Library where they can give meals to up to 60 people.

By Mazelle Kuplent

As residents of Whatcom County prepare for an unusual Thanksgiving, businesses and organizations continue to prepare for their Thanksgiving food drives and meal services.

Food drives and meal services have adjusted their practices to accommodate COVID-19 regulations and restrictions. 

“The less contact you have with food, the safer the food is likely to be,” said Ali Jensen, program specialist for the Whatcom County Health Department. “It’s always a good idea to wear a mask while preparing and delivering food for others outside your household.”

Coffee and Sandwiches Together, a food service program run by the Interfaith Coalition, must follow the guideline of serving takeout style meals only. Every item handed out must be individually packaged, said George Mustoe, a CAST volunteer. 

Food drives must also consider the safest way to collect donations. 

“Canned goods are the safest,” said Amy Cloud, public information officer for Whatcom Unified Command. “If possible, it’s best to leave a repository in an open space where people can leave their donations.”

This year, the Lighthouse Mission will host separate, smaller events for each program. Everyone involved in the preparation of food will wear masks and surfaces will be cleaned frequently, said Hans Erchinger-Davis, executive director of the Lighthouse Mission. 

Last year, the Lighthouse Mission hosted one large Thanksgiving event in the gym of the Assumption Catholic Church for members of all of their programs, Erchinger-Davis said.

BBay Running, a shoe store in downtown Bellingham, hosts a yearly food drive and shoe drive at its Thanksgiving morning run event, owner David Penrose said. 

This year the run is unable to take place as usual due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, food drive donations can be made at the BBay Running store located at 1431 N State Street. Anyone who wants to participate in the Thanksgiving run can do so at any point in the day, Penrose said.

“What we're trying to do is not encourage ... people to all show up at the same time. We want to be very cognizant of all the safety rules that are in place to protect us,” Penrose said. 

All food donated to the BBay Running food drive will be sent to the Bellingham Food Bank, Penrose said. The Bellingham Food Bank also coordinates with other food banks in the area to send any excess donations elsewhere in Whatcom County. 

BBay Running works with local nonprofits — like the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center — to donate shoes in an effort to prevent them from going to the landfill, Penrose said. 

The yearly Thanksgiving run hosted by BBay Running has included a food drive for the last 12 years, Penrose said. The food drive is looking for nonperishable items such as canned goods, protein bars and cereals. 

The CAST program has been serving meals since 1999 and has been part of the Interfaith Coalition since 2015, Mustoe said. 

“We’re like the post office. Neither rain nor sleet nor hail nor hurricane keeps us from serving,” Mustoe said. 

CAST serves meals every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. in front of the Bellingham Public Library, according to their website.  

On Thanksgiving, they will continue to serve packaged meals that follow the Whatcom County Health Department guidelines, Mustoe said. 

Coffee and Sandwiches Together accepts donations of food that meet the individually packaged criteria, as well as donations of small clothing items like hats and gloves, Mustoe said. Donations can be delivered directly to the volunteers in front of the Bellingham Public Library, and a full list of items can be found at the Interfaith Coalition website

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