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But It’s Not Home Powerless Families Celebrate Holiday At Restaurants, Church Dinners

FRIDAY, NOV. 29, 1996

Thirteen-year-old Paul Wilkins was too shy to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family at St. Patrick’s Church in Hillyard. Instead, the teenager chilled out in the family van and gobbled up some turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

“It’s all right,” he said. “It’s fine.”

But it’s not home.

The Wilkinses, who had planned a large family gathering at their home just north of Deer Park, lost their electricity Wednesday morning when a tree came crashing down, tearing out their power lines.

People still without power after last week’s ice storm helped swell the Thanksgiving Day crowd at St. Patrick’s and elsewhere.

Volunteers at St. Patrick’s said that in the 27 years the parish has been serving free Thanksgiving meals, this was the busiest they have seen it.

It also was busy at many Spokane restaurants and at supermarkets that were selling - and often cooking - turkeys and the trimmings.

“I was wanting to relax in my own home and was kind of disappointed that I’d be eating around strangers,” said Leslie Wilkins. “But it all worked out.”

After seeing some friends seated at tables in the church’s school basement, the Wilkinses felt right at home.

“This place is very nice, very giving and very familylike,” said Elisabeth Wilkins, 12. The giddy girl gulped down icy cold soda and gushed about becoming a teenager. Today is her 13th birthday.

She was excited about the turkey-shaped cake her aunt was making for her birthday. “It’s always the delicious-est.”

Christi Ann Wilkins, 10, said she really liked her Thanksgiving because a woman at St. Pat’s “looked just like my grandma.”

Her brother Jamie, 7, had a too-full tummy after eating three slices of pumpkin pie. The pie was good, he said, but it “didn’t taste like grandma’s.”

When South Hill resident Jan Erickson’s power was restored Tuesday, she rushed out to buy a fresh turkey to take to a feast at her sister-in-law’s house. But when she woke Thanksgiving Day, the power at her house was off again.

Fortunately, Erickson remembered a sign she had seen at the Rosauers supermarket on 14th Avenue. “Bring in your turkey. If you don’t have power, we’ll cook it.”

By 10 a.m. Thursday, Erickson’s 25-pound bird was in the store’s oven. By 3:30 p.m., it was ready.

“They wrapped it all up for me. I bought mashed potatoes and took it to my sister-in-law’s,” Erickson said.

Six people took the store up on its offer, said Luke Dauenhauer, floor manager at Rosauers.

Diners packed the Old Country Buffet in Franklin Park Mall for most of the day Thursday.

Many ordered to-go meals for loved ones without power.

Larry Hale of Seattle flew to Spokane to be with his elderly parents who had lost their power, lived through a chimney fire and were spending the holiday at an area hotel.

“It’s not what you call a typical Thanksgiving,” Hale said. “It’s not like sitting at home with your family.”

One lucky man at the restaurant didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

Ted Parker and his family had been out of town since before the storm hit and had returned home to Spokane on Wednesday night.

“There’s quite a crowd,” Parker said. “I heard there’s been a lot of ice here, huh?”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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