Shenandoah owner plans dinner, lesson in caring

December 16, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

Editor's Note: This is the second of a 10-part series about people who make this holiday season brighter for others. The series concludes Christmas Eve.

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Turkey. Ham and roast. Mashed potatoes and green beans. Biscuits and cornbread. Cakes and pies.

It's an old-fashioned menu that its organizer hopes will inspire the children who attend to understand that the holidays are about more than receiving the latest toy under a Christmas tree.

David Wilt, 39, is organizing the holiday feast for more than 60 children, whose families also are invited. It will be Dec. 22 in the ballroom of The Shenandoah at the corner of Queen and Martin streets in Martinsburg.

Children in kindergarten through third grade will attend, having been selected mostly by school personnel. Wilt, a lifelong Martinsburg resident, is gearing the dinner toward children who need a helping community hand.


"When you're younger, it's harder to understand why you're not receiving a gift or why Santa's not coming to your home," he said.

Families of the children also will benefit, since each will leave with a bag of food, including a turkey, that will enable them to make another meal at home. Donations of nonperishable food the families can take home are still being sought.

Santa Claus will be at the event, and children will make a craft that can be given to a family member for the holidays.

Wilt said he has wanted to hold such a dinner for years, but never had the means or a suitable site. Now, as the building manager of The Shenandoah, he has both.

Ben Fogle, owner of the building, was enthusiastic and donated $1,000 to sponsor 20 children, Wilt said.

Other sponsors are still being sought. For $50, a sponsor ensures that a child receives a warm coat or winter clothing and a toy. Toys are selected individually from each child's wish list.

For Wilt, his desire to help others has been long-standing.

"My mother instilled a lot of this in me - wanting to do stuff for people," he said. "While growing up, we always did what we could do for anybody."

He said he hopes the children leave with more than a full stomach.

He worries that Christmas has become too commercialized, too focused on the material aspect and the pressure to buy expensive gifts.

So, during the dinner, the children will celebrate with family, listen to music and play less-commercialized games.

He hopes the children might one day carry on such traditions with their own families.

Many community businesses have become involved, including Ryan's Steakhouse, which is donating the meats, cakes and pies to be served. Hoss's Steak and Sea House is donating the mashed potatoes and green beans, and Cracker Barrel is donating the biscuits and cornbread.

The man who will be portraying Santa is donating his time, while Turner Photography Studio will be taking and giving each child a photograph of the visit with Santa, at no cost.

Want to help?

Donations of nonperishable food are sought, as well as $50 sponsorships, which ensure a child in need will receive warm winter clothing and a toy.

Call David Wilt at 304-671-1062 to help.

Tomorrow: Shirley Fahnestock of Chambersburg, Pa.

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