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Volunteers drive success of annual Christmas dinner in Pa.

December 26, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lynne Newman and her husband, John, left their Chambersburg home at 5:30 a.m. Christmas morning to put more turkeys in the Salvation Army's oven, prepare two huge pans of stuffing and do the many other tasks necessary to feed dinner to 300 people.

"Mrs. Newman is quite a woman. Santa Claus is not a man, it's a woman," said Laura Loose, a teacher at Shippensburg (Pa.) Area Middle School, who volunteers at the annual Salvation Army Christmas dinner every year with members of the school's Student Council.

The day before, the Newmans organized 60 delivery routes, picked up poinsettias donated by local florists and bought presents.

On Christmas morning, Lynne Newman handed out names and addresses to volunteers who would be delivering meals all over the county to the elderly, shut-ins, the state and borough police barracks, Franklin County Dispatch and others.

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"Pick up the presents first, then the meals. Everybody gets a present. Everybody," she instructed.

"Some will grab (the dinner) and shut the door. Others will open the door and say, 'Welcome.' Talk to them a little," she encouraged the volunteers. "They'll enjoy it and so will you. Let them know there are people who are concerned about them in this world."

Lynne Newman has been organizing and cooking the Christmas dinner for 12 years. She has a lot of volunteer help, some from her place of worship, Congregation Sons of Israel in Chambersburg.

"Some people volunteer year after year," she said. "One man always comes in to carve the 14 turkeys."

Helpers in the kitchen filled Styrofoam take-out containers with turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Meals for diabetics eliminated the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

Some volunteers used boxes to transport the meals, while others used ice chests. One man took 14 dinners to Waynesboro, Pa., while another man loaded five into an insulated chest to keep them warm.

Volunteers can come back and eat after making deliveries, Lynne Newman said.

"It's neat because a lot of the volunteers know each other, and they sit down and talk and have a meal together," she said. "It's like a big family dinner."

John Newman said he enjoys "the feeling of helping, making other people happy, giving them a little more than they would have otherwise."

Much of the food, including the turkeys, is donated, although "Lynne buys a lot," her husband said. Some of the desserts were brought in by individuals, others donated by stores.

"Whatever people bring in, we give out," John Newman said.

The Salvation Army did not receive as many donations as usual this year, so Lynne Newman bought every large can of sweet potatoes she could find, she said. She then made candied carrots to take up the slack.

Jason Rosenberger, 17, of Biglerville, Pa., a junior at Cumberland Valley Christian School, said that a few days before Christmas, he "thought it would be special to help serve people. It would brighten our Christmas as well as theirs. And it would be nice to go with friends."

Rosenberger recruited several classmates and teacher Corry Shaffer.

"Jason brought me the idea," Shaffer said. "And I got in touch with Lynne to see what we could get our hands in."

In addition to the people who received delivered meals, about 100 people came to the Salvation Army to eat.

The tables were decorated with pine boughs and poinsettias, which diners could take home if they wanted. Tables covered with festively wrapped presents stood along one side of the large room, a table full of desserts along another wall. Each diner received a gift. Many came as early as 11 a.m. to sit in the warmth and wait for the meal to be served.

On arrival, diners are asked whether they want white or dark meat, sweet or mashed potatoes, and if they want gravy on the stuffing. The person takes a seat at one of the tables, and the custom order is brought to him or her on a glass plate.

"We try to make it as special as possible," Lynne Newman said. "They can have as much as they want, and they can take some home."

When the meal was over, there were stacks of dirty dishes. James Kendall of Marion, Pa., has been helping with that chore for four years.

"I love doing dishes," he said. "I'm a carpenter by trade, and doing dishes eliminates the splinters from my hands."

Assisting Kendall was Fred Wolf, a member of Congregation Sons of Israel who has volunteered at the dinner for 12 years.

"I'm Jewish, so I give the Christians a day," Wolf said. "It's only right since I don't observe Christmas."

"We could not do this without them," Lynne Newman said. "They're the most important part because they do the dishes."

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