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Good Deeds When Friends Gather, Hungry Get Help Food Bank Started When One Man Shared Fish With His Pals, Talked Them Into Creating Community Event

This story is made possible by Lloyd Wetmore’s friends.

They’re the reason, he insists, that a barbecued salmon dinner is the biggest fund-raiser of the Spirit Lake Food Bank, collecting enough food and money in a single night to fund the charity for most of the year.

They’re the reason that 330 people from Priest River to Spokane come to the Linger Longer Lounge the first Saturday of December to share salmon, turkey and chowder.

They make it possible, Wetmore says.

He makes it possible, his friends say.

He started the dinner bringing home chinook filets frozen during his commercial fishing in Alaska. He talked friends who were gathering to enjoy the fish into making it something for the community.

Seven years later, he’s still providing the salmon, basting the fish with his special orange-lemon marinade, making 15 gallons of clam chowder, cooking so many hours with Betty Corkery and Caroline Stanton, that he’s always too tired to eat.

And it’s not just people he feeds. Three years ago, nearly 400 starving deer migrated from the mountains surrounding Spirit Lake, coming within a half-mile of town.

Wetmore rounded up his friends and, using their own money and holding potlucks when that ran out, hauled alfalfa to the deer struggling in 9-foot snowdrifts. They went every day for three months.

“The deer were staggering they were so weak, and when they went back up the mountain, they were fat,” says Wetmore. “It was something.”

“I think he hates to see anyone suffer,” says Corkery. “He’s one of those people who likes to see everyone taken care of.”

Revealing this, she adds, will mortify him.

It does.

“I’m only a small part,” he insists. The annual salmon dinner, for instance, takes the work of Lee and Caroline Stanton (who own the Linger Longer), Corkery, Joy Porter, Leslie Marshall, Linda and Brad Pendleton, Patsy Kroetch and others.

“It’s a wonderful group,” says Shirley James, president of the all-volunteer food bank which helps about 30 families a month. “You hear that society is going down the tubes, but they reinforce your belief in the good in people.”

“It’s the way country people are,” says Wetmore, 54. “They help each other. They don’t ask what people need, they just get out and do it.”

How well Gordon and Sharon Amos know. The Spirit Lake family’s home burned in 1993, killing their dog. But the ruins became a rallying point for the Spirit Lake community as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, friends and even strangers pitched in to build a 2,200-square-foot home.

Wetmore, who plays pinochle with Gordon Amos, was there of course, along with friends he’d coerced into coming.

The months Wetmore’s not fishing in Alaska, you might catch the single grandfather in the backcountry with a rod or rifle and his cocker spaniel Buddy.

His friends won’t be far behind.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo