Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Wednesday in Cascade Locks, Food bank volunteer Robert Calvert, right, tells pilots, ”Thank you with all my heart and soul,” for their delivery of food at Cascade Locks airfield. The unusual arrival of Thanksgiving supplies drew a large crowd to the normally-quiet airfield on Forest Lane. From left are Camas-Washougal-area pilots Dennis and Carter Kozacek and Jeff Reese, whose planes came in with hundreds of pounds of food. See page A8 for story and more photos.
The Cascade Locks food flight created quite a stir Wednesday at the normally quiet Cascade Locks airfield on Forest Lane.
“The town hasn’t seen this in a while. It’s pretty exciting,” said Martha Lamont of Cascade Locks FISH food bank, who worked with the Washington Pilots Association for the unique delivery of anonymously-donated turkeys and boxes of food for 150 local families, just in time for Thanksgiving.
A planned 25 planes was pared to a fleet of four, because of weather concerns at airfields in Vancouver, Camas-Washougal and farther away, but the rest of the food arrived in three large trailers, according to pilot Gary Miranda of Vancouver.
WPA’s Warren Hendrickson said, “this demonstrates what’s possible. The weather this time of year is a roll of the dice, but this is a means we can resupply a community.” A hundred or more people gathered at the airfield to welcome the planes. Said Lamont, “People wanted to be down here and part of it.”
“You couldn’t ask for better people. This was a way to meet with friends,” said Kandice Rice of Cascade Locks, who took home a turkey and box of food. Food was delivered directly to homes and to City Hall, Bridge of the Gods toll booth and local businesses for further distribution. A portion of the 4,000 pounds of food went to the Cascade Locks food bank. Deliveries were made to the senior housing complex and to 12 families on Ruckel and John Quincy streets. The neighborhood on the south side of town was closest to the Eagle Creek fire, and the first to lose their power. For many, electricity was off for weeks, ruining contents of fridges and freezers.
“Everyone’s going to have a pretty full Thanksgiving this year,” Lamont said.
Between the weather, food collection locations, volunteers to unload and deliver, and the coordination with donors outside the community, the food flight was a detailed process for LaMont and Hendrickson to carry out.
“We knew we could do this as a community,” LaMont said. It is just the latest chapter in a logbook of generosity from inside the community and out. A $1,000 donation for meat will be coming in December, LaMont said. The funds will be spent at Columbia Market on WaNaPa Street, which has worked with FISH since the fire started in a voucher system for food and supplies for residents who had to evacuate because of the fire and lost income. Senior Bonnie Kempen, who volunteers at the food bank, said, “I think it’s a miracle. All the food that’s been coming in. This has been really something, ever since the fire. I worked in the Salvation Army for years, to me I’ve never seen a community come together, or I should say almost a whole state loaded food in here, and everybody benefited.“To me it’s a big blessing. God’s good. He takes good are of us,” Kempen said.
On Wednesday, four pilots from Washougal Airmans Association brought in between 450-700 pounds each.
“It’s a wonderful thing. I’m retired and it’s all about giving back,” Dennis Kozacek said. “It makes me feel good, it’s gives me as much pleasure as it does others.”
His son, Carter, 22, said, “It was great. These little airports are fun. It was a great day to fly.” Carter, a student in Arizona who is bound for the Air Force after graduation, said, “I love flying when I’m home, and I heard about the opportunity. It’s a lovely way to use a plane for something that’s good rather than just having fun with it.”
“We had 20 or 30 airplanes (available) but we were worried about where we were going to park them,” Dennis Kozacek said.
“We have got a group that if there was any type of emergency we could mobilize and do a flight to Cascade Locks or anyone else to help the communities,” said Kozacek, a retired Navy veteran.
“We’d been in touch with the people of Cascade Locks because there had been some talk of changing the airport or doing something with it, and when we recognized there were problems with family not having the income and stuff because of the fire we thought it would be a nice gesture to bring this to people for their Thanksgiving meals,” he said.
City Administrator Gordon Zimmerman, who was on hand for the event, confirmed that the Port of Cascade Locks and the State of Oregon, which owns the airfield, have started a study looking at the current status of the property and potential alternate uses.