Washougal kitchen staff honored

Employees help out during summer wildfires

A team of Washougal School District Sodexo employees were recently recognized for their efforts to feed firefighters staged at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Canyon Creek Middle Schools during this summer’s Gold Rush Fire.

“Everyone was still out on summer vacation, just weeks before the new school year started, and I received a call about providing breakfast, lunch and dinner meal service to firefighters,” said Mark Jasper, Sodexo general manager at the Washougal School District. “At first my mind was racing with thoughts of where and how I was going to get food to feed them. The location is remote and was totally closed down with nothing on the shelves.”

Jasper contacted Sodexo to coordinate emergency delivery. Then the calls went to Washougal area employees to work in the kitchen.

“I started to make phone calls and leave messages,” he said. “It wasn’t long before I was amazed at how fast everyone was ready to answer the need for help. These were people willing to give up their last week of summer vacation.”

The fire burned for eight days 12 miles northeast of Washougal.

Washougal employees recognized for the award were: Nancy Sonneson, Washougal High School; Cheryl Bastian, Jemtegaard Middle School; Molly Krabbenhoft, Hathaway Elementary; and Trudi Jones, Gause Elementary.

The group worked in teams of two and gave coverage to the firefighters from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., for more than a week.

“The firefighters came in covered with black dirt and exhausted,” Bastian said. “They were hand digging fire trenches because they could not get equipment in. There were nights that we were serving dinner at 10:30 p.m. because that is when they came in. Everyone was so nice and so grateful.”

Sonneson was impressed at how the entire community gave support.

“They brought in so much stuff like cases of Gatorade and Rockstar, and food like bananas, apples and desserts,” she said.

The 60-acre Gold Rush Fire was originally reported on Aug. 17 and burned mostly logging slash in remote areas of west Skamania County. It was reported fully contained on Aug. 24.

The Eastmont and Woodland school districts, both impacted by wildfires and mobilized to serve firefighters in their area, were also recognized by the Sodexo award.