Residents gather to share good food and company

November 26, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

WASHINGTON COUNTY - While many Washington County residents enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in the comfort of their homes on Thursday, hundreds of local residents shared food and fellowship at three local community dinners, including the Hagerstown Rescue Mission's 49th Thanksgiving dinner.

Ellen Resh, 88, remembered the first Thanksgiving dinner the mission held. She cooked it.

Back then, the Reshes and their five children lived in an upstairs apartment off Burhans Boulevard, and the mission was run out of an old dance hall downstairs, Resh said.

"We had turkey and all the trimmings. Might have had two turkeys," Resh said. Besides the family, Resh fed approximately six men from the mission.


Then the mission was serving mostly older men dealing with alcoholism, Resh said.

More younger men come to the mission now, and drugs are the major problem, she said.

The dinner is "something that we've had ever since we started and it makes people aware of what we do here and what our mission is here - not just to have meals, but to help these men, give them hope to get over their alcoholism now," Resh said.

Mission resident Ernie, who didn't want to give his last name, said a lot of problems brought him to the mission in February 2003.

"When you get to know Jesus Christ, it straightens your life out," said Ernie, 62. Since coming to the mission Ernie said he's found a job, which he's had for the last eight months. He is staying at the mission "until the Lord lays it on my heart to move."

Roy Kinsey, 53, said he came to the mission eight months ago because of "alcohol addiction, drugs and a bad relationship."

The mission "saved my life," he said.

Both men credited The Rev. Carl Black and Bruce "Sonny" Shank, the mission's executive director.

The Thanksgiving meal, open to the community, was a "tremendous blessing," Kinsey said.

New volunteers

Community Thanksgiving meals also were served at Williamsport United Methodist Church and Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown's West End.

Several new volunteers showed up at both churches this year to help serve turkey and the trimmings, organizers said.

The Jardines of Clear Spring and the Silers of the Cearfoss area pitched in at the Williamsport church's early-afternoon meal before the two families were to head off to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together.

Michelle Jardine, 35, said the rescue mission had enough volunteers so she called the church to see if it needed help.

"(It's) something I've always wanted to do to give back to the community," Jardine said.

The family got a lot out of the experience and it was good to teach the children that not everyone is as fortunate as they are, Jardine said.

Hillary Jardine, 13, said the experience was fun and one she wants to repeat.

"I've enjoyed it. Absolutely enjoyed it," said Peggy Siler.

Pastor Marcia Mayor said the church served 156 meals in-house and 51 carryout meals Thursday.

"I appreciate the sense of gratitude of the people who come," Mayor said.

Doug Barnhart, 54, of Dam No. 4 Road, and his sister, Barbara Barnhart, 55, of Hagerstown, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at the Williamsport church.

The pair used to have Thanksgiving dinner with their brother, Fred Barnhart, but he died in 2000, they said.

Cooking the holiday meal at home results in too many leftovers, Doug Barnhart said.

Grace United Methodist served 275 meals, some in-house and some delivered, organizer Tracy Clipp said.

The church had about 50 to 60 volunteers, including several new ones, Clipp said.

New volunteer Stacy Shafer, 35, of Boonsboro, decided to help at Grace United Methodist's holiday dinner after learning about the event from Clipp.

Shafer brought fellow volunteers - her husband, two sons, mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephew.

"I think it went great. I'm just thankful that I'm able to help those that are in need or alone," Shafer said.

Helping others

The rescue mission drew approximately 40 volunteers, said Chris Shank with the rescue mission.

In addition to individual members of the community volunteering, four organized groups helped serve food and clean up, Shank said. They were Jaycees of Hagerstown, Nike outlet employees, St. Mary's Catholic Church and Captive Free Northeast, a music ministry team with Minnesota-based Youth Encounter.

Captive Free Northeast sang and shared stories Wednesday night at Trinity Lutheran Church in Smithsburg, said Christie Lange, 29, of Melbourne, Australia.

This was the second year the Jaycees helped with the mission's Thanksgiving meal, said Steve Souders, one of approximately six Jaycees members helping Thursday.

Besides serving dinner to approximately 115 mission residents and community members at the mission on Thursday, more than 30 meals were delivered to shut-ins, said Sonny Shank and his brother, Pastor Ron Shank with Maranatha Brethren Church.

Those numbers didn't include the volunteers and approximately 35 family members of Resh attending the meal.

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