For over a decade, Insook Baik has prepared Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of people every year.
As the owner of the Shell gas station in Mountain View, she said she knew there were a lot of people in the community who might not have a hot meal otherwise. And she wants to take care of her neighbors, so every year she reserves enough ham, turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie for the whole neighborhood.
Glen Ellis, who is the store manager, said he and his wife help prepare the food. This year that meant about four days of work, he said. A few volunteers, many of whom work nearby, served plates on Thanksgiving Day and handed them out to people through a walk-in window or drive-thru.
The number of people stopping for a meal has been steadily increasing over the years, Ellis said. This year, he expects them to serve almost 900 plates somewhere. Things during the pandemic were tough and many people in the community struggled to pay their bills.
âPeople who have houses are hurting, the money is going down this year and things are costing a lot more,â he said. âEverything that is given back to the community helps. “
The best part of the tradition for Baik is just seeing the joy on other people’s faces and hearing about their successes, she said.
âA few years ago a man said, ‘I was hungry, I moved here without a job, without a car, without an apartment, but you gave me food,â she said. The man returned several years later and told him he had a job and had a place to live, according to Baik. He gave her some money to help pay for more supplies for the following year.
Baik’s face lit up on Thursday when a regular customer walked through the doors with a saxophone and played a jingle for a crowd of volunteers in the kitchen.
As the music drifted down the aisles, it came out and into the snow to show a man the queue for the pickup window where he could have his meal. Once back inside, Baik moved to his side of the window, passing bags of hot food into the hands of the others.
âHappy Thanksgiving,â she said, the corners of her eyes narrowing as her face mask covered her smile.