ANCHORAGE — On a day when hundreds flocked to the Central Lutheran Church in Fairview for all the Thanksgiving fixings, one woman in line stood out in more ways than one: She was pregnant, in labor, and wasn't leaving without her turkey.
A neighbor had brought her Monday evening to the annual Thanksgiving Blessing, as the big pre-holiday giveaway organized by the Food Bank of Alaska and area churches is known. People line up at churches all over town for yams, cranberry sauce, potatoes, apples, stuffing, gravy mix, pie, rolls, vegetables, and a turkey and roaster -- everything they need for a feast at home.
Alan Budahl, the incoming executive director of Lutheran Social Services, was in his first day on his new job when a flustered man came up to him.
"Hey I have my neighbor," the man told Budahl. "She's in labor, and she's in the line and she won't go to the hospital until she gets her food because she needs her Thanksgiving basket."
"I said, 'Well, what do you mean in labor?' "
"Literally. She's in labor. You'll see it," the neighbor answered.
Budahl told the neighbor to bring the pregnant woman inside.
Once she got to the front, Budahl saw she was breathing through contractions. "Shouldn't you be in the hospital?" Budahl asked.
"She said 'I need this Thanksgiving basket. I do. I do. I do. If you don't get it today, you don't get it.' "
Budahl moved her to the front of the line, along with the neighbor, who was driving her to the hospital right afterwards.
He advised her to take the elevator upstairs for the giveaway, but she didn't want to wait for it and took the stairs.
Budahl helped her get through the crowd. "Coming through! Coming through!" Upstairs, she seemed drained and sat down. He asked if she needed an ambulance. The woman, who had her young daughter with her, said she didn't. Her contractions had started maybe an hour-and-a-half earlier. Her water wasn't broken yet. The baby would be her second, and she knew what she was getting into.
A volunteer filled her basket. The laboring woman kept saying how she needed the food.
"She was nice. You could tell, she must be having a contraction because the look on her face was, I need it now," Budahl said.
Some teenage volunteers carried her food basket to the neighbor's car. Her daughter held her hand.
"We helped them out and away they went," Budahl said.
So how did it turn out? In all the commotion, no one got her name or which hospital she was going to.