CAP Thanksgiving Basket director retires


After 20 years volunteering with the Community Assistance Program’s (CAP) Thanksgiving Basket program, director Shirley Tobian has decided this year will be her last.

Tobian was volunteering with the Semiahmoo Women’s Club and Blaine Scholarship Foundation when former Thanksgiving Basket director Brent Brentnall invited her to assist with the annual program. Tobian said she fell in love with the program when she began in 2003, and eventually became director.

“I’ll miss the volunteers and seeing the people and the smiles on their faces,” Tobian said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Tobian’s duties as director gear up in August and reach about 300 volunteer hours each year after she creates a food list, orders groceries, takes reservations, organizes volunteers, writes donor letters and thank you notes, and more.

A group of community members and North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) firefighters then distribute a couple of hundred baskets with Thanksgiving fixings a few days before the holiday.

“It runs like a clock,” Tobian said. “I think that’s what made me be able to stay at the program for as long as I have.”

NWFR lieutenant Mike Nelson has volunteered with the program since 1999, when he learned about the program after inspecting a Blaine restaurant where the program started. Nelson enlisted the help of NWFR firefighters over the years.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Nelson said of Tobian’s work. “She does a huge part of the organizing. It’s invaluable.”

Nelson said he’ll always remember Tobian as well-organized and steadfast.

“She has to hold a tight line to make it all work,” he said. “We call her the general or the sergeant.”

After finishing her time with the Thanksgiving Basket program, Tobian said she’ll remain involved with CAP, volunteering one week per month with its crisis assistance program.

“It’s a community effort, and in Blaine, we are very lucky that we are a community that cares,” she said. “I’m very grateful for being able to be


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  • trapi1

    Shirley, as someone who has benefited from your hours, your years of service, how can a Thank You be enough? After moving here 16 years ago, I never expected that I would be fighting stage 3 breast cancer within six months. Because it was just me, the bills were overwhelming. Because of you, and those who are giving their time so unselfishly, I was able to provide a very nice Thanksgiving dinner for neighbors who were unable to cook or afford such a treat. Please know, that YOU, have been a BLESSING in so many lives and I still am unable to show you just how grateful I am. How grateful that so many others are. To sit down to a beautiful meal, say a prayer, then everyone to tell what they are grateful for. This year, know that your name will be on my lips and heart when the question is asked upon me. Though I can even come up with the words to describe what you have done for myself and so many others, YOU will be in my prayers and many more of those who you gave to so unselfishly. Bless you my friend and know that because of you and those who you inspired, people who are in a bind, like myself, were able to give thanks. Because of you.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2023 Report this