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News / Clark County News

‘Everyone Welcome’: Where to find a free Thanksgiving meal in Clark County

By Kelsey Turner, Columbian staff reporter
Published: November 18, 2022, 6:07am

With Thanksgiving Day less than a week away, organizations and individuals throughout Clark County are preparing to serve food to and create community for those in need.

Among them is Dream for Life, a service organization hosting its 10th annual free Thanksgiving meal Saturday. The event is open to all and will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at two locations: Living Hope Church, 2711 N.E. Andresen Road, Vancouver, and Grace Community Church, 1311 Lewis River Road, Woodland.

“This is kind of our busiest week of the year,” said Isaiah Vercher, manager of Daddy D’s Southern Style Barbeque, which is providing food for the event. “We’ve been smoking turkeys and hams since Tuesday.”

With volunteers’ help, Daddy D’s will serve 150 turkeys and hams along with various side dishes — enough to feed about 5,000 people. There will be other activities and services, as well, such as free haircuts from A1 Cutz, gift bags, care packages and music by local musicians.

“We have all the volunteers come in, and they help cut up all the turkeys. We have 2,000 cans of green beans that need to be opened,” Vercher said.

Vercher’s dad and owner of Daddy D’s, Donnie Vercher, started this event a decade ago when he noticed a community need.

“I see people come knocking on my back door every day, ‘You got any food?’” Donnie Vercher said. “I’d say, ‘Come back later.’”

He would give leftovers to the homeless at the end of the day, but wanted to do more.

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The annual meal began as a way to feed the homeless but has expanded to people from all walks of life.

“No one will be turned away, and everyone is welcome,” Donnie Vercher said. “My goal is to bring the community together.”

Last year, it took 40 volunteers nearly six hours to cut all the turkey and ham, he noted. But the time and labor it takes to pull off the event is part of what makes it so rewarding.

“When you do something for someone else that can’t repay you, that’s when you know you’re living,” Donnie Vercher said.

Daddy D’s is still accepting cash and food donations, including trays, forks, spoons, napkins and cranberry sauce. Donations can be dropped off at 1243 N. Goerig St., Woodland.

With a similar goal of serving the community, retired Judge Rich Melnick and Beaches restaurant owner Mark Matthias are once again providing free holiday meals, as well. Volunteers will help Melnick and Matthias serve food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Dec. 25.

Thursday’s menu includes turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and dessert. Meals can either be picked up or eaten on location at the former fire station at 900 W. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver.

Volunteers will also deliver meals to senior and veteran families and shelters with at least 20 occupants. Melnick anticipates about 1,800 to 1,900 dinners will be delivered, and another 300 will be picked up or eaten on site.

“When we started this event, we realized that people have a variety of emotions during the holiday season. We wanted to do something to help those who may approach the holidays with less than joyfulness,” Melnick said. “Everyone is welcome, no questions asked.”

Additional free Thanksgiving meals

  • The Seeds of Dignity Thanksgiving Dinner, catered by Cracker Barrel, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Roosevelt Elementary School, 2921 Falk Road, Vancouver. The event is open to all and includes 300 drive-thru meals and 150 dine-in meals. Food and seating are first come, first served.
  • The Salvation Army is giving out free Thanksgiving food baskets that can be picked up curbside from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. today, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 11018 N.E. 14th St., Vancouver. You must show proof of Washington residency to pick up a basket. No registration is required and baskets are first come, first served.
  • Share House will give out free Thanksgiving meals from 9-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Share House also serves daily hot free meals Monday through Friday, including 8:30-9 a.m. breakfast, 1-1:30 p.m. lunch and 5-5:30 p.m. dinner. Meals are served at 1115 W. 13th St., Vancouver with to-go options available and are open to all with no reservations needed.
  • Immanuel Lutheran Church is hosting a free Thanksgiving community potluck Thursday at 8310 MacArthur Blvd., Vancouver. The potluck is from 1-2:30 p.m., and doors open at 11:30 a.m. for those wanting to help set up and play board games. To sign up, call the church at 360-694-3661 or email office@immanuelvancouver.org.
  • Knights of Columbus volunteers are preparing and delivering Thanksgiving dinners to residents in Camas and Washougal. If you or someone you know needs a dinner, call Treasure House at 360-834-4181, East County Social Services at 360-835-7802, St. Thomas Aquinas Church at 360-834-2126 or Al Schmid at 360-608-7757 and provide the household name, number of people, phone number and address. Volunteers and donations are needed to help with food, meal delivery, funding, turkey and pie.
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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff reporter