EDMONDS — Westgate Chapel has not changed how it celebrates Thanksgiving in the past 18 years.
The church, located at 22901 Edmonds Way, always has opened its doors and fed hundreds of people.
“We realized, people in our community needed a place to be on Thanksgiving,” pastor Cindi Bowen said. “We want them to feel like they are our guests.”
About 1,200 people were expected to attend. Since the church only had room for 400 at its Commons room, it served dinner at three different times.
While the first group was finishing up with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, people in the second group played board games in the hall or took a family photo courtesy of the church.
On Thursdays, the church also opens its food and clothing bank for people in need.
Over the years, the event has grown in attendance. Bowen believes it is because of the economy and because people are finding out about the dinner through word-of-mouth.
This year, the church sent invitations to students attending schools in the Shoreline, Mukilteo and Northshore school districts, pastor Ron Brooks said.
Attendance has also become more diverse with different languages being spoken, such as Russian, Spanish and Chinese.
The goal is for everyone to feel at home, Brooks said.
“We’re saying, ‘Come, have a good dinner and let’s be a family today,’” Brooks said.
Most of the event was funded by the church. It had 500 volunteers, most of them members of the church.
One of these volunteers was Troy Talbot, of Snohomish. He was part of security and one of his main duties was reuniting lost kids with their parents.
“It’s a great event. It’s about serving the community and help people have a place to go this Thanksgiving,” Talbot said.
For married couple Tanya and Don Warren, helping out has become a Thanksgiving tradition. They’ve been involved for 12 years.
“This is how we celebrate and it’s great,” said Don, who lives in Edmonds.
Edmonds resident Alicia Oseguera came for the second time with her five children, ages 1 to 15.
“I like it. All food is really good,” Oseguera said. “We will be here next year if God lets us.”
It was the first time Shannon Crockett came to the event. He came with his two stepsons, ages 5 and 10, and the three were enjoying pumpkin pie.
“Everyone is nice, and the food is good too,” Crockett said.
Melvin, wife Ronica and daughter Shekinah Indrias have been coming to the dinner for the past five years. For the Lynnwood family, the more people celebrating, the better.
“We like to celebrate in large gatherings. This is the Thanksgiving we enjoy,” Melvin Andrias said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@ heraldnet.com.