Record file A long line of volunteers packages dinners for those who otherwise wouldn’t eat Thanksgiving.

Mobile Turkey Unit volunteers prepare for record serving year

At the end of the day, the Mobile Turkey Unit just wants to make sure everyone from Clinton to Coupeville is able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

Even if it means peeling 400 pounds of potatoes, packaging more than 500 dinners and anticipating the largest number of orders to date, the organization does what it can to make it happen.

The Mobile Turkey Unit is serving South and Central Whidbey for the 18th year running. The all-volunteer organization annually seems to churn out a larger amount of turkey and other holiday bites than the previous year, and 2016 is no different with organizers anticipating a record 550 orders, perhaps even more. More than 470 dinners were delivered last year, and volunteers shrug at the thought of a new record.

“We believe nobody on this island should go hungry,” said Gwendine Norton, the organization’s meal coordinator. “It looks like we’ll go over the amount we’ve ever served this year, and that’s fine with us.”

The Mobile Turkey Unit steps in to provide meals for those who would otherwise not be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. The organization prepares mind-boggling amounts of food for low-income families, the homeless, the elderly, those who work throughout Thanksgiving day and even those who will spend Thanksgiving alone who don’t want to prepare large amounts of food.

Their reach extends to organizations that serve at-risk communities such as Helping Hand and Ryan’s House. On Thanksgiving day, the Mobile Turkey Unit fills the void left behind from Meals on Wheels, which is closed on the holiday.

“Our founding father, Tom Arhontas, thought everyone deserves a Thanksgiving meal,” organization president Art Taylor said. “If somebody is living in a car, we meet them. We specialize our staff to make sure people are fed.”

An anticipated record number of orders requires a massive volunteer team. Taylor said roughly 175 or more volunteers are expected to come out to put the meals together — about 50 making deliveries, a handful of chefs organizing people and plumes of people basting turkeys, peeling potatoes, packaging pies and making cranberry sauce. Dave Johnson and Tom Norton are leading this year’s cooking team.

The food prep begins on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and wraps up the day before. Swarms of volunteers come together at 7:30 a.m. at St Hubert’s on Thanksgiving morning, and somehow manage to package all the food, properly label, ship out the food and leave without a trace by 9:30 a.m.

“While there’s a small group that gets things going, on Thanksgiving morning it’s a huge huge portion of our community that comes out to deliver the meals or serve the portions,” Norton said. “When you stand there that morning and look around to see how many community members help us do this, it’s one of those goose bump moments.”

The online form to request a holiday meal is open until 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. Requests can be made to Gwendine Norton at (360) 321-9782. The form can be found at

Those interested in joining the volunteer team can contact Rindy Stewart at (360) 321-2553 or

Record file A long line of volunteers packages dinners for those who otherwise wouldn’t eat Thanksgiving.

More in News

Uninhabited house destroyed in blaze

Officials from Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue say they are unable… Continue reading

Bus driver wins statewide Above Beyond Award

Washington State Transit Insurance Pool and Island Transit have announced that bus… Continue reading

Harbor seal pup. Photo by Sandra Dubpernell/Orca Network/Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Experts: Seal pups should be left alone

Pupping season is in full swing for the seals that visit the… Continue reading

Restored sheep barn becomes a classroom in Ebey’s Reserve

The public is invited to celebrate the restoration and re-purposing of the… Continue reading

Seas, Trees, Pie Bike Ride is on the way

Cyclists of all ages will take to the roads as part of… Continue reading

Burn ban begins Friday the 13th

Backyard bonfires will soon be outlawed on Whidbey Island. Island County Sheriff… Continue reading

Photo provided. Campstuff Coffee sells durable steel and enamel mugs for under $20.
Coffee stand opens in Deception Pass Park

Standing in the drizzly rain in open-toed sandals, the foggy beach behind… Continue reading

New public art debuts in Langley

Steel and glass shape pieces chosen by arts commission

Dave Madeiros stands in front of his garage, where he keeps the materials he uses for his flooring business that he has owned and operated since 2001. He still lives in the first home he bought in Oak Harbor after being homeless for a two years. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
                                Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
                                Dave Madeiros stands in front of his garage, where he stores materials he uses for his flooring business that he has owned and operated since 2001.
Businessman shares story of homelessness

Dave Madeiros knows well both sides of the homelessness issue. Madeiros has… Continue reading

Most Read