Every year the Chehalis Eagles host a special holiday dinner for displaced children and families. We sat down with Diana Anderson, the event’s driving force, to discuss this remarkable tradition.
How did the Holiday Dinner for Displaced Children and Families begin?
This event started with a conversation between myself and Dr. Pope over cocktails at the Eagle’s in Chehalis six years ago. He asked me if I would help him put together a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless kids. Mind you, this was the week before Thanksgiving. I of course told him no; it couldn’t happen that quick. But what about next year?
Then I went home and thought about it, called him up and said that if we put our heads together, we could put together something just before Christmas. After that, it was game on!
We got on the phones and gathered donations and volunteers. I cooked (with the help of a few people) 10 turkeys and 10 hams, 10 bags of giblet stuffing, and 100 lbs of potatoes. We made gravy from our stock, Apple Yams and Green Beans, all served along with an orange and rolls donated by Franz. Our first year we had only a few days of advertising. We served 98 people and donated the leftovers to the Mission.
What’s on the menu this year?
Turkey, ham, giblet dressing, vegetables, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls and a variety of deserts. During this event, we also have available for those that need it: blankets, hats, gloves, gently used coats and shoes, sometime clothes, hygiene products, etc. We also make sure every child gets a gift!
What is your favorite part of the event?
Seeing the true appreciation from those in need. I’ve had hugs from total strangers! Seeing a group of total strangers drop everything and come help. Making new friends and sharing a good time of giving.
I am so excited to help those that are just down on their luck! I spend a little time with the family members; kids first, adults second.
What have you learned along the way?
It’s not the kids’ fault to be where they are and it’s not always the parents’ fault either. It makes my day to make these families happy, if only for the day.
The mental health side has a couple of aspects. You have the kid that had controlled meds until they turned 18 and have no real guidance once they leave home. They are now on their own. It’s sad, and I understand. They think they can control the world and they just become part of the system, leading to arrests and suicides. Then you have the side that has fallen through the gaps and are just trying to survive.
Either way, they are a part of our lives. Many ignore, disregard, or just plain try to ignore them. It doesn’t help to do that. Give them a little attention, listen and help them if the opportunity is there. That’s what I do. And it makes me happy!
Why do you invest in this work?
If I can connect with one of these people and make them feel that they are important in this world, it makes me feel good. It’s only happened once and only lasted for a very short time.
I am just a small business owner here in Lewis County. I have no real educational background, other than growing up and experiencing life, but I see every day as a perfect sunrise and tomorrow will always be a better day!
The Chehalis Eagles Holiday Dinner for Displaced Children and Families will be held on Saturday, November 23, 2019 at the Chehalis Eagles Club, located at 1993 S. Market Blvd. in Chehalis. Dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Twin Transit Route #12 will drop off and pick up from the Chehalis Eagles from 10:35 until 2:50, coinciding with their FREE service weekend.