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Community volunteers serve up holiday cheer

December 19, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

Editor's note:For these 12 days before Christmas, we will be recognizing individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others. This is the eighth in the series.

Life can be rough in the Jonathan Street area, but for a few hours Saturday, it was blessed with goodwill.

Four local women interested in doing something special for the community opened the doors of the Bethel Gardens community center and laid out dinner for 250.

Flyers announcing the dinner were distributed at the YMCA and the Rescue Mission, said Tracey Brown, one of the four women calling themselves the Friends of the Community.

When they came to the center at 11 a.m. to begin serving dinner, there was already a line.

The dinner was supposed to last until 3 p.m., but the food was gone by 1 p.m.

"It was unbelievable. We never anticipated this to go this fast," said Brown, who put on the dinner with Kim Greene Martin, Marsha Brown and Deborah Blossom.

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Rick Barnett, a Bethel Gardens resident who stopped in for dinner, said it is nice to see something positive in the neighborhood instead of the negative publicity over drug trafficking in the area. The Jonathan Street neighborhood, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the county's violent crime, has been designated for a HotSpot anti-crime program.

"There is so much heartache in this area, but God has blessed us today," said Tish Ashby, a member of the Zion Church who helped serve the dinner.

Many people, like Robert Sullivan, took their dinners home, sometimes taking an extra plate for children or spouses. Brown said many of the people who came are probably on limited incomes, and have problems making ends meet.

"It's really nice. Beautiful," said Sullivan, 74, who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Friends of the Community spent Friday night cooking six turkeys, four hams and other food for the dinner.

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