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Local volunteers come together to ensure everyone has holiday meal

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LA GRANDE — A local group of volunteers made sure everyone has a full plate this Thanksgiving.

Neighbors Together, a nonprofit organization based in La Grande, ramped up its weekly food bank donations to help get Thanksgiving goods and food into the hands of those who might otherwise not have access to a holiday meal.

With about 10 volunteers working hard to make the food available, roughly 50 people were able to stock up on Thanksgiving essentials at Mountain Life Church on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

“We’re here for them if they need anything,” said Larry Watson, one of the organizers. “We do this every Tuesday, but for Thanksgiving we try to really make it special.”

Watson has been a leading volunteer with Neighbors Together for roughly 30 years. He noted that the last couple of years have been slower because of the pandemic, but that the need is still evident in the area.

According to Watson, Neighbors Together averages about 30-35 guests to its weekly food giveaway and reaches about 70 families. With Turkey Day around the corner, the food bank saw a surge of individuals at its home base at Mountain Life Church.

Volunteers unloaded boxes full of goods, including an assortment of frozen foods, nonperishable items, some fresh options, bread and more. With the holiday just days away, the volunteers made sure to have all the essentials available for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

“This year we had people put in requests for turkey, canned pumpkin and things like that,” Watson said. “We have mashed potatoes and other items to give them a nice Thanksgiving meal.”

Richard Enter, a volunteer who also works at Walmart, helped bring the donated goods from the store to the food bank. Neighbors Together primarily leans on Walmart for the donated goods, but also receives items from Safeway and other local grocery stores. Enter plays a big role in picking out which items will be available at the food bank, especially around the holidays.

“Because I knew Thanksgiving was this Thursday, we really tried to ramp it up with Thanksgiving goods because some people wouldn’t have a meal,” Enter said.

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Residents choose from among donated food items at the Mountain Life Church on Island Avenue in La Grande on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. The mountain of supplies at the Neighbors Together food bank included traditional Thanksgiving fare along with steelhead trout, deli items and locally made goat cheese. {div id=”highlighter--hover-tools” style=”display: none;”} {/div} {div id=”highlighter--hover-tools” style=”display: none;”} {/div}

The items available at Neighbors Together change on a weekly basis, but Enter was glad to see a variety of meats and dairy products available at this week’s food giveaway.

“It’s a good feeling helping out for a great cause,” Enter said.

Volunteers and participants alike were in good spirits as they prepared for a holiday centered around counting your blessings.

Volunteer Robert Cummings said he enjoys conversing with those who take advantage of the food giveaway as well as the fellowship among the Neighbors Together group.

For Cummings, helping others is second nature.

“It’s important to help others, especially around this time of year when folks may not have these things available,” he said.

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