Matthew Fouard (left) talks with his family while deployed with the U.S. Air Force last Thanksgiving. His mother Wendie Fouard (second from left) is planning another virtual celebration this year. (Contributed photo)

Matthew Fouard (left) talks with his family while deployed with the U.S. Air Force last Thanksgiving. His mother Wendie Fouard (second from left) is planning another virtual celebration this year. (Contributed photo)

Thanksgiving dinners stay small this year, some go online

Many plan to stay home to avoid spreading the virus. Some have lent a hand to those in need.

MARYSVILLE — This isn’t the first time Wendie Fouard has hosted a virtual Thanksgiving.

Her son is in the U.S. Air Force. This is the second year in a row he has been deployed on the holiday.

“We kind of had a head start on the virtual living,” said Fouard, who lives in Marysville.

This year she plans to spend Thanksgiving with her husband as they connect with family online.

Many hoped the virus would be under control by now. It didn’t work out that way.

Since March, at least 270 people in Snohomish County have succumbed to COVID-19. More than 2,800 lives have been lost in Washington. Upwards of a quarter of a million people in the United States have died.

Case numbers have peaked in the past couple of weeks, and health experts have urged us all to keep our distance from one another on Thanksgiving to stop the spread of the deadly disease. There is little doubt the death toll will continue to climb after Thursday. Families have made tough decisions. Some have come up with creative plans to provide free meals to those who need them.

It was important to Fouard, 45, to keep her family separate to avoid spreading the virus. She wants to stay safe as well.

“I have some pretty severe lung damage,” she said. “Getting a lung disease is the last thing I want.”

She purchased a device called a Facebook Portal that can capture an entire room on video. It even swivels as she walks around. That part can be a little unsettling, she said.

She and her husband plan to move the dining room table to the living room and connect with their daughter, son-in-law and grandkids who live in Spokane. Fouard also plans to leave food on the porch for her sister to pick up, who may also join the online meeting.

She isn’t sure if her son, Matthew Fouard, will be able to make it for digital dinner because of the eight-hour time difference. He has the hyperlink just in case.

He’s deployed in the United Kingdom. Last year he was in Turkey.

Sharon Olson gets ready to hand out meals for Thanksgiving. She and her husband Matt Olson have provided enough food to feed about 160 people this year. (Contributed photo)

Sharon Olson gets ready to hand out meals for Thanksgiving. She and her husband Matt Olson have provided enough food to feed about 160 people this year. (Contributed photo)

Matt Olson, 33, decided to help people in need this year. In the past few days he has provided enough food to feed nearly 160 people. He and his wife, Sharon Olson, have delivered almost every meal, many of them to people they had never met before. They live in Lake Stevens.

For Olson, this was a way to direct his grief into something positive.

At the end of October, a good friend he served with in the U.S. Marine Corps died by suicide after a decade-long battle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, Olson said. His funeral was Sunday.

“He was somebody who made everybody smile,” Olson said. “Even six months into deployment and you’re like, ‘There is nothing to smile about here,’ he found a way.”

Olson posted on the neighborhood website Nextdoor encouraging anyone who needed a Thanksgiving dinner to reach out. He received an overwhelming number of responses and donations, and they were able to make full meal kits, he said.

“We just started buying up as many 10- to 12-pound turkeys as we could,” he said.

He and his wife started cooking Sunday.

They estimate Sharon Olson has made more than 150 pounds of mashed potatoes. Matt Olson has smoked around 35 turkeys — his favorite way to cook is on the barbecue. His mother, Kathy Robinson, chipped in as well and has baked more than 200 cookies. All the cooking was done in a home kitchen with a single smoker.

Now he’s planning to start a nonprofit to do it again next year, and hopes to help even more people.

“Hearing people’s stories has honestly been incredibly emotional,” he said. “When you feel like you are hitting a low point, and then you hear about a single mom of six who lost her job due to COVID, it sounds kind of weird, but it makes you realize how much you have to be grateful for, and know that food is going to go a long ways.”

Their final delivery was Wednesday. On Thursday he’s celebrating with his wife and two young daughters. Most years they have a bigger get-together.

An increase in scattered gatherings means more amateur cooks, and more chances for house fires.

The state fire marshal’s office reminded people to be safe while cooking.

Stay in the kitchen while using a stove and check on the oven often while food is roasting. In the case of a stovetop fire, turn off the heat and place a lid over the pan. If there is an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed until it has cooled. Keep flammable items away from the burners, and don’t let children within three feet of the oven.

For the past nine years, Volunteers of America Western Washington has hosted a Thanksgiving buffet dinner at Sultan High School, in partnership with the City of Sultan and the Sultan School District.

That couldn’t happen this year, so volunteers are instead handing out free to-go meals from noon to 4 p.m. at the Sky Valley Resource Center, 701 First St. People can also pick up toys and winter clothes. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will also be there to greet families.

All are welcome, but food may go fast, warned Lynsey Gagnon, community resource centers director for the Volunteers of America chapter.

“This year more than any other we really wanted to do this for the community,” she said.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Find support

Help is available for those struggling with mental health issues this holiday season.

• Volunteers of America Western Washington runs a crisis line for people who need help immediately. Call 800-584-3578 or visit imhurting.org to chat.

• The Trevor Project provides confidential resources for LGBTQIA+ youth. To talk with a counselor call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678 or visit thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now to chat.

• Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s behavioral urgent care center is open for virtual and walk-in visits. Call 425-261-4210 for more information.

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