HOMETOWN HEROS: Stephen Hawse & Vernita Wright

By Laura Wright, Kettle Falls


“The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of commitment to make a difference in the lives of others” -Deann Hollis.


Stephen and Vernita

For Kettle Falls couple,  Stephen Hawse and Vernita Wright, making a difference and helping people in their community is what it’s all about. Stephen and Vernita are proof that when you put your heart, mind, and soul into an idea and have enough determination, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible.


In November of 2016, Stephen and Vernita came up with the idea to host a Thanksgiving dinner, that would be open to anyone in the community. With only 3 weeks till Thanksgiving, they managed to gather enough donations and recruit enough volunteers to turn their idea into a reality called “The Friendly Feast.” “We thought this would be a neat way to help others and bring people in the community together. This is the time of year is to do just that, so If someone doesn’t have family to be with or a place to go for Thanksgiving, now they do.” -Stephen Hawse. The dinner was held at the Kettle Falls senior center and they served smoked turkey and ham with all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. They even had pies for dessert that they purchased from the local charity “Wheels For Emily”. 


An estimated 50-60 people were fed that year, thanks to a handful of compassionate individuals who wanted to give back for the holiday. The 2017 Friendly Feast was another great success and it is Stephen and Vernita’s hope that this will become a yearly tradition in Kettle Falls. Unfortunately, the Friendly Feast won’t be happening this year. Wright and Hawse recently opened a successful new business in Kettle Falls, which requires a majority of their time now. They hope with community participation and the help of volunteers, that there will be a Friendly Feast on Thanksgiving next year. Like Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”


Stephen and Vernita’s restaurant, Backyard BBQ, opened in 2017 on Meyers Street in Kettle Falls and the locals loved it! It wasn’t long before they outgrew the first restaurant location and made the decision to purchase the old KC’s diner building on Main street. After many renovations, the new location of Backyard BBQ opened its doors and sold out 5 times in the first 2 weeks! The new location provided the space needed to accommodate large parties and they were able to expand their menu and catering options thanks to the bigger kitchen. With a full bar, stage and dance floor in the back, they can host events and there’s even a gift shop where local artisans showcase unique one-of-a-kind creations.

The KC’s Diner to Backyard BBQ remodel, before and after.


Even with a new business to run, Stephen and Vernita have still managed to help with community fundraisers, host benefits and volunteer for local charity’s. They participate in the local event “Festival of Neighbors”, helping in any way they can every year. The couple put on the kids carnival at the 2015 festival, even building and painting all the game booths by hand. They were grateful to be part of several fundraisers for the “Casey McKerns Pay It Forward Charity”, which supports those with spinal cord injuries. The couple gladly volunteered their time to cater Backyard BBQ at the annual “Raise Your Glass” event, “Lets Roll-Amazing Race” and the “Balls and Chain Walleye Tournament”, that are held to support Casey McKern’s Charity. When the Boyd’s fire broke out earlier this year, Stephen and Vernita gave out free meal tickets to those displaced by the fire and provided lunches and dinners to the Red Cross. Backyard BBQ was also one of the businesses that participated in the “Community Unity Fundraiser” put on by the Kettle Falls Chamber of Commerce to benefit the Boyd’s fire victims. 


On Veteran’s Day, this year Backyard BBQ again hosted the Veterans Day Benefit Dinner. The chart-topping band “Brewers Grade” performed and all Veterans got a prime rib dinner with all the fixings on the house! All the proceeds went to support the American Freedom Fund Patriot Shooting Team, whose members are local veterans. Last year, there were 70+ Veterans fed at this benefit and they enjoyed an even better turn out this year!

Front Row: Lillie Mae Emfinger, Vernita Wright, Stephen Hawse, Back Row: Liam Emfinger, Quintin Hawse

It is clear that giving back to the community they live in is very important to these two and they are beyond grateful to everyone who has helped and supported them along the way. It is people like Stephen Hawse and Vernita Wright, who truly understand that it is far better to give than it ever is to receive, which is the true meaning of the holidays!


“The greatness of Community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members” 


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