Bagel guy delivering meals to neighbors

When the governor ordered the closure of restaurant dining rooms, bagel shop owner John Auburn opted to make soup for community members in need instead of offering takeout.

Auburn, who owns the Whidbey Island Bagel Factory locations in Clinton and Oak Harbor, has been giving soup away free of charge for the past month and delivering it to the doorsteps of South Whidbey neighbors who are living in isolation.

Some of his employees take care of their elderly parents, which he said was one of the reasons for the total closure of both of his stores.

Auburn also cited the older clientele coming in and being exposed to the virus as a concern of his.

“I just didn’t feel it was safe,” he said. “I would feel awful if someone got sick and died because they visited the bagel shop.”

He has been choosing one day every week, usually a Wednesday or a Thursday, to cook and deliver soup. He has made a range of flavors, from cream of mushroom to tomato basil to chili to Thai curry chicken this week. For next week, he is planning a vegetable soup.

Many of the people he makes the soup for are older or feeling lonely as a result of the current pandemic.

He recalled bringing soup and a few groceries to a couple in their 80s living outside of Langley. Their driveway led him so far up into the woods, he wondered if he had found the right address.

Finally, the bushes thinned and he saw a house.

“They were so thrilled,” Auburn said. “They couldn’t believe it.”

Often he employs a “knock and run” technique, leaving food on the front porch, although other times he stays for a few minutes to chat at a safe distance with the recipients. For some of these people, he acknowledges that it’s the only interaction they may have that week.

He has delivered to about 50 people each week, from Classic Road to Scatchet Head. If people know of anyone in need living in this area who might benefit from a free soup delivery, they can call the Whidbey Island Bagel Factory at 360-341-4302.

“I just want people to be safe, and we’ll get through this,” Auburn said.