Special meals for special people in Tri-State area

November 26, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Diners at the Waynesboro Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Evangelical Church in Waynesboro must have felt as though they were in a fine restaurant.

"How's this right here?" Denise Esser asked two new arrivals Thursday, showing them to a table. A server took their drink orders immediately.

The eight tables in the church basement were covered with white lace tablecloths and set with glass plates and metal utensils. Flowers and table favors added to the ambiance, as did a pianist playing Thanksgiving and Christmas hymns.


"When I first came here, we were using disposable Styrofoam items," said Esser, coordinator of the event. "I said, 'Let's change it.' I wanted to make it more of a special meal to show people that they matter."

Sponsored by the Waynesboro Area Human Services Council, of which Esser is the coordinator, and the Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches, the family-style meal has been served for many years, although Esser wasn't sure how many.

Local restaurants and clubs donated and roasted 12 turkeys and two hams, Esser said. Volunteers donated homemade pies and breads. The rest of the food - mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green beans and sauerkraut - were made on the premises.

It took 50 volunteers to prepare and serve the meal to the 85 expected diners, and to deliver another 55 meals to Meals on Wheels clients and other shut-ins. Esser said there would probably be some walk-in diners.

"We don't turn anybody away," she said.

Lynn Law of Tomstown, Pa., said she has come to the dinner every year for five years, and that the food is good.

Esser said Janet Smedley of Waynesboro has played the piano at the dinner "forever." Between songs, Smedley explained that she came to the dinner "long ago to help serve, and they had enough people. I was standing around, and I said, 'What if I play some music?'" She's been doing that every year since. Smedley said she will have a Thanksgiving dinner with her family when they come home this weekend.

The event was a family affair for the Cooks, three of whom were dishing up mashed potatoes, ham and turkey in the kitchen. Richard Cook and his son, Justin Cook, and daughter-in-law, Kate Cook, all of Waynesboro, were going to have their Thanksgiving meal together later in the day, Justin Cook said.

Doris Wierman, of Waynesboro, cut homemade pies and breads while her son, Ken, served coffee. June Doolittle also helped with the desserts.

"I enjoy this," she said. "And we get to taste it."

A new tradition

While the meal in Waynesboro has been an annual event of long standing, a new one was started in Mercersburg, Pa., this year. Anyone who wanted a Thanksgiving meal was invited to the Trinity United Church of Christ by the Mark and Jane Metcalfe family.

By Wednesday evening, 85 people had made reservations, Jane Metcalfe said.

She said she decided to invite people to have dinner with her family when she heard someone say, "I don't have anywhere to go."

"Nobody should be alone on Thanksgiving," she said.

The church donated the kitchen and social room for the event. Daughters Erica, 17, and Laura, 7, helped with preparations, including answering "a ton of phone calls from people saying they will come and help, both friends and strangers," Jane Metcalfe said. "People are saying, 'We think this is such a great idea and we want to share it.'"

Fifteen dinners will be delivered to clients of the Tuscarora Senior Center Meals on Wheels program, she said.

Metcalfe said her uncle held a similar dinner 20 years ago in New York.

"He started with 17 people, and after three years there were over 1,000, so his church took over," she said.

Meals in Martinsburg

The Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission was expecting to serve about 75 Thanksgiving meals, said Danny Mills, who lives and works at the mission.

He said the mission, at 602 W. King St., planned to serve turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and desert.

"I've been here five years, and it's been pretty good," Mills said of the 1 p.m. meal.

Mills said 34 people live at the mission and six walked in off the street to eat shortly before meal time.

"I would say we'll probably do 75 or so before it's over with," he said.

The mission also served breakfast at 8 a.m. to about 15 walk-ins and to about 20 people who live in the facility.

A 5 p.m. supper, which Mills said would probably consist of leftover turkey sandwiches, also was planned.

Mills said that with St. Joseph Catholic Church on South Queen Street in Martinsburg serving meals, a good number of people would have the opportunity to eat on Thanksgiving.

"Some eat here and then some run down there and eat," Mills joked.

Thanksgiving meals were served Thursday in other Tri-State communities, including Chambersburg, Pa., and Fayetteville, Pa.,

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story.

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