Lesson in charity makes the perfect birthday gift

For her birthday this year, Char Pike wanted to give, not get.

She turned 61 on Feb. 26. After turning 60 last year, the Marysville woman was thinking seriously about her future.

“We were talking about our bucket lists,” said Pike, who shared with her cousin, Marilyn Boe, that she was looking for ways to help other people. Boe, who lives in Everett, had an idea that was just the thing.

The Salvation Army in Everett serves fellowship dinners three nights each week to people in need. Volunteers, businesses and area churches pitch in to host the meals. Some provide food, others come to serve.

Nearly 100 hungry people show up for the meals, said Betty Mastrude, program coordinator for the local Salvation Army’s meal outreach.

With her cousin, Pike first served at last Thanksgiving’s Salvation Army dinner in Everett. That experience planted a seed. She wanted to get her grandchildren involved.

It was actually one grandson, 15-year-old Nick Novy of Marysville, who inspired Pike. “He donated half the money he made last summer doing yard work to the Marysville Food Bank,” said Pike, who has three children and 15 grandchildren.

To get her family in on her mission, she told them that what she wanted for her birthday was to make dinner — at the Salvation Army. Although her birthday was in February, when she contacted the agency she was told the need was great in March. That’s because March had a fifth Thursday, an extra dinner to serve.

So on March 29, Pike purchased and cooked a ham dinner for about 90 people at the Salvation Army. She brought along her cousin, friends and other family members, including seven grandchildren. Shopping mostly at Costco, Pike spent more than $600 on the meal, plus the makings for sack lunches that were handed out at the end of the evening.

The menu had an Easter theme, with ham, scalloped potatoes and rolls. She did some cooking at home, but that afternoon had help from Mastrude in the Salvation Army kitchen.

Mastrude, 64, began as a volunteer but is now a part-time staff member with the Salvation Army. The agency’s meal outreach is called Neighbors Who Care, the Granite Falls woman said.

“Groups from the public partner with us. Some commit to once night a month,” she said.

Donors include businesses. “Papa John’s Pizza comes once a month, and Pepsi employees have come,” Mastrude said. “I really look for groups that are willing to provide just the food. We provide soup, desserts, bread, beverages and all the paper products.”

Mastrude sees a monthly pattern in the numbers of people at the meals. Dinners are offered Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting at 5 p.m. at Everett’s Salvation Army, 2525 Rucker Ave. “At the first of the month, the numbers are in the 70s, but go up to 90 or 95 as the month progresses,” she said.

That pattern is a reflection of people running out of benefits or food assistance at the end of a month.

“We see mostly men. But with the economy being what it is, we’ve seen an upswing in young families with kids. It is sobering,” said Mastrude, who previously worked as a food bank director. She got involved several years ago when she and a friend started providing one meal per month.

Pike works as director of nurses in transitional care at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Serving the dinner was such a positive experience, Pike and her family are talking about doing it again. For her grandchildren, she said, the dinner served as a lesson — in charity, compassion and life choices.

“It’s a great thing for a family,” Pike said. “You don’t have to do it alone. You can do it with the people who work there.”

Pike was touched by the gratitude of people who came to eat. Some suffered from mental illness, she said, and some others appeared to have drug issues.

“They all said thank you. I wish 90 percent of the world was as thankful as that,” Pike said.

It didn’t come wrapped in a package, but Pike said giving the dinner was a perfect birthday gift.

“The older you are, the less you need,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Salvation Army Everett

The Salvation Army Everett Corps, at 2525 Rucker Ave., is a church and nonprofit social service agency.

For more information, call 425-259-8129 or go to www.everettsarmy.org.

Worship services: 11 a.m. Sundays.

Food bank: 9-11:30 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday, and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays.

Meals: 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays.

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