Church offers early Thanksgiving helpings

November 24, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - This year, Zion Baptist Church in Hagerstown added a Thanksgiving meal in November to the annual "love feast" dinner it holds in February.

"It's just a need," kitchen volunteer Alfonso Mitchell said of the additional free meal.

For a handful of people who had come in from the cold by early afternoon Wednesday, the church and the food were welcome.

Faye Branche said she didn't need help when she had a steady job with Maryland Ribbon, which is now known as Berwick Offray LLC.


But, since the company transferred her job to Mexico, she has relied on short-term jobs, making it tougher to raise six children.

Ricky Allen moved from Long Island to Hagerstown in March to be near his son, daughter and three grandchildren. On Wednesday, he brought one grandchild, 14-month-old Taven, with him to the church to dine.

Allen, who relies on Social Security payments, said he usually keeps to himself and otherwise would have been home watching TV with Taven, who napped as his grandfather talked.

Ray Naill, another sit-down diner, expected to leave Hagerstown today after a short stay and go back to his home in the Somerset, Pa., area.

Early in the afternoon, he was on a break from his temporary job at Allied Waste, the trash collection company previously known as BFI.

After finishing a full plate of food, Naill was given a second.

Mitchell said the church feeds about 25 to 30 people at smaller free dinners three times a week. Many are regulars, looking for a consistent place to eat.

Volunteers didn't know how many people to expect Wednesday. Maybe 100, meal coordinator Christine Brooks guessed. That included about 30 delivery orders that already had been called in.

When the day was done, Brooks reported in a phone interview that the church served 98 meals.

The kitchen crew bustled at about 11:30 a.m. as the first few diners wandered into the dining room.

Eva Webb pulled turkey meat from the bone. Virginia Flood poured instant potatoes into a pot on the stove. Barbara Gray arranged side dishes.

Joshua Fitchett loaded take-home containers with potatoes, stuffing and sauerkraut, then passed them to Flood for helpings of meat and gravy.

Branche said she missed The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving meal the previous day. She looked through The Herald-Mail for notices of other community dinners when she saw the notice for Zion Baptist's.

As she waited for two carry-out portions for herself and her 5-year-old daughter, Jamaica, Branche said the meal will help, for one day, as she tries to return to a steadier job and life.

"Just keep strong at it and keep my head up," she said.

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