Church, mission share Thanksgiving bounty

November 27, 1998

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Feeding the multitudeWILLIAMSPORT - Marge Ng refers to Lula and Beckley Harsh as the parents of Williamsport United Methodist Church, so it was only fitting they shared in the church's fourth annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner.

"I tell you it's wonderful that these people do this for old people," said Beckley Harsh, 89, one of the church's oldest parishioners.

His wife, Lula, who turns 86 on Saturday, concurs.

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Lula Harsh said she used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 people, including her sister's children.

For the last four years the couple has attended the 25 E. Church St. church's free dinner.

Harsh said she has been coming to the church since she was a baby.

"They never had any children, yet they are the parents of this church," said Ng, who has been a parishioner for 24 years.


Parishioner or not, everyone in the Williamsport area was welcome to the free dinner early Thursday afternoon, said Kevin Noll, chairman of the Thanksgiving Day Dinner Committee.

"The church always asks for stuff. It was nice to give back," Noll said.

About 105 people attended the dinner while another 62 had dinner delivered, Noll said.

In Hagerstown, about 200 people attended Thanksgiving dinner at the Union Rescue Mission, said Executive Director Bruce Shank. The mission has offered the meal for 43 years.

Noll said starting the holiday dinner at the Williamsport church helps bring people together for the holiday who otherwise might have spent it alone.

"The Williamsport area is an older community and I know there's a lot of people who are lonely," Noll said.

Florence Buila, who lives nearby and has no family, came to the church dinner with a friend. She said she heard about it through the Order of St. Luke's in Clear Spring.

David Blenard, 92, attends St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, but said he attended the Williamsport church's dinner because he received one of the 3,500 fliers delivered to residents in the Williamsport area.

In between bites of pumpkin pie, Blenard said the dinner had all others beat.

"It's excellent," he said.

Jim and Betty German, of Halfway, took a break from volunteering in the kitchen to help themselves to some turkey and fixings.

"We enjoy helping get it done," said Jim German, 69. German said the annual event is a way to get a good meal and good conversation.

It's also a way to make new friends, which the Germans did with the Knapps.

"We don't have a big family so we go to churches to be around people," said Patricia Knapp, 49, of Hagerstown.

Knapp said there was no sense cooking a big meal for just her and her husband, Charles, 49.

She said they enjoyed their dinner and company so much they are going to start attending the church.

Betty and Jack Walter, of Funkstown, made the church dinner a family affair.

Betty Walter said she was afraid they wouldn't have enough food at home to feed their daughter and son-in-law since they both worked up appetites running in last weekend's JFK 50-mile.

"It's a wonderful program for the people who are by themselves," she said.

About 30 volunteers helped prepare the meal, which included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, corn, cranberry sauce, green beans, yams, apple sauce and dessert, Noll said.

Parishioners donated much of the food with the church paying for the rest, he said.

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