How do you create the holiday spirit? Sharing goodwill and connections sparks good feelings with both givers and receivers. Thurston County is a place to find amazing people who provide examples of spreading cheer. Many of our community members make a difference that impact our greater good. People’s generosity of heart need not be measured in quantity of dollars. The important thing is that they are doing something. Here are a few Thurston County community members who warm the hearts and hands of others.

Olympia Pet Emergency logo 2018

Baking 70 Weekly Loaves of Sourdough Bread for SW Washington First Responders

About three years ago Shari Duncan got her hands into a bit of sourdough starter from a friend. “I’ve been baking forever,” she says, but not with sourdough bread. Shari took fresh loaves to one of her children’s schools. There was a single loaf leftover, so she dropped it off across the street at the fire station. The feedback was positive, and she continued to bake.

The bread baking provided two things important to Shari. She found baking bread therapeutic for the challenges in her life and giving it away to first responders was meaningful to her. Additionally, food is her love language.

Shari has delivered to 29 different fire stations in three counties. Monday mornings include a regular stop at Olympia Fire House 5. That’s where retired firefighters drop in for coffee, conversation and restoring vintage fire engines. There’s also Shari’s tempting muffins, scones or biscotti. “We enjoy her bread!” says an enthusiastic firefighter. The muffin recipe is a Thurston County Fair Winner for marionberry and blueberry sourdough muffins. She used cranberries for a holiday version.

turkey-shaped bread in a wicker basket
Look closely at those turkeys. They are really baked sourdough bread created by Shari Duncan, who delivers them and other breads to area firefighters. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

“I’m her delivery boy,” says Russ Duncan, her husband. He likes his job. Speaking about the firefighters Russ says: “We don’t walk in their shoes. They help keep us safe. It’s nice to see the smiles on their faces.”

Shari uses 100 pounds of flour about every 12 days. She bakes seven days a week. That’s a lot of loaves! And many happy people. “I had no idea this was going to grow,” she says. “I love the community. It’s our way of giving back.”

Thurston County Personal Care Packages

Kyle Leapline and Geoffrey LaForce use their personal resources to make personal care packages for those they encounter on the street. They fill about 20 bags each month. They have passed them out in downtown Olympia near the bus station. “We will give them away when we see someone on a street corner asking for help,” shares Kyle. “All are not houseless.” They have seen both elderly people and those with young families asking for assistance.

a package of crackers, toe warmers, fruit snacks, toothbrush and toothpaste on a weaved placemat
Care packages that can be handed out to those in need may include hand warmers, snacks and hygiene items. Photo credit: Kyle Leapline

Depending on prices and what’s available, the closable bags include soft foods like granola bars and fruit cups, in consideration of those with dental issues. Other food items may be meat sticks, or snack cracker sandwiches. They also collect toiletry items such as toothbrushes, floss, paste, tampons, lip balm, socks, hand warmers, bandages, tissues and cough drops.

Kyle and Jeffrey enjoy actually seeing and making connections with others. “People can make a difference by just saying hello,” explains Kyle. “It doesn’t need to be some grandiose gesture. My husband and I think each generation should leave the world in better shape than the previous generation. This is one simple contribution to support our brothers and sisters in need.”

Kyle has encouraged other groups to make their own care packages, including High Impact Dance (HID), a local dance school in Hawks Prairie, where he is an instructor.

Lunch Makers for Unity Commons

For the past four years, Cathy Evans has coordinated lunch service twice each month for Unity Commons. 750 meals were provided this past year with contributions from 45 people, many from the Unity of Olympia community, some who participate regularly and others from time to time.

Unity Commons maintains 58 emergency beds with an additional 64 apartment units. “Our partnership with Interfaith Works guided us to feeding the most compromised population, those unable to survive on the street due to their poor health, physical disability, medical needs, such as the use of an oxygen tank, or daily medical appointments,” explains Cathy.

a bowl of soup on a red tablecloth
On a regular basis, small groups of volunteers bring all the elements for a healthy lunch to Unity Commons, where supportive shelter is offered 24/7. Hearty, warm soup is good for the body and the spirit. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Cathy likes to make a main hot, hearty dish like lasagna or chili. Contributors bring macaroni salads with cubed meat and cheese, fresh fruits, vegetables, snack packages, and desserts, often homemade.

“Guest health changes with proper nourishment,” says Cathy. She stays committed to helping with the lunches because Unity Commons provides comprehensive support, education, and social service available to all that come to the doors. “Having a continuum of service is important to me,” she adds. Nearly 50 guests from the day shelter have transitioned to permanent housing.

Thank you for all in our community who make lasting differences with their individual contributions. You can keep the holiday spirit throughout the year. Cathy sums it up well, “People coming together to share their time and abundance to make our community, in spite of differences, a better place.”

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