For more than a decade, Insook Baik has made Thanksgiving dinner each year for hundreds of people.
As the owner of the Shell gas station in Mountain View, she said she knows there are many people in the community who may not otherwise have a hot meal. And she wants to take care of her neighbors, so each year, she stocks up enough ham, turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie for the whole neighborhood.
Glen Ellis, who is a manager at the store, said he and his wife help prepare the food. This year, that meant about four days’ worth of work, he said. A few volunteers, many of whom work nearby, dished up plates on Thanksgiving Day and passed them to people out of a walk-up window or drive-thru.
The number of people stopping by for a meal has steadily increased as the years have gone by, Ellis said. This year he expects they’ll serve somewhere near 900 plates. Things during the pandemic have been hard, and a lot of people in the community have struggled to pay their bills.
“People that have homes are hurting, the money is running shorter this year and things cost a lot more,” he said. “Anything given back to the community helps.”
The best part of the tradition for Baik is just seeing joy on others’ faces and hearing about their successes, she said.
“One man a couple years ago, he said, ‘I was hungry, I moved here with no job, no car, no apartment, but you gave me food,’ ” she said. The man returned several years later and told her he was employed and had a place to live, according to Baik. He gave her money to help pay for more supplies for the next year.
On Thursday, Baik’s face lit up as a regular customer walked in the doors with a saxophone and played a jingle for a crowd of volunteers in the kitchen.
As the music drifted through the aisles, she stepped outside and into the snow to show a man to the pickup window line where he could get his meal. Once she was back inside, Baik stepped to her side of the window, passing bags of warm food into the hands of others.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she said, the corners of her eyes crinkling as her face mask covered her smile.