Mission co-founder serves her 51st holiday meal

November 24, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

HAGERSTOWN - There was a big crowd to feed Thursday, but Ellen Resh had help this time.

Fifty-one years ago, the Hagerstown woman by herself cooked, served and cleaned up after the first Thanksgiving meal served at the new Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission.

Dozens of rescue mission staff, volunteers and Resh family members this year joined the woman, who will celebrate her birthday today, to serve hundreds in the same spirit as that 1955 meal.

"I'll be 90 years old and haven't missed a Thanksgiving yet," Resh said.

Her late husband, Jim, hardly was an avid reader, but he found a book about a mission in Chicago, and decided to start one in Hagers- town. The couple overcame financial woes and negative sentiments from community members who didn't agree with the mission.


"Some people felt, 'They made their bed, let them lie in it,' but we didn't feel that way," Resh said.

That first dinner, which fed half a dozen men, is the one predominant in Resh's mind, and one of those served especially stands out.

"He wasn't old, really, but the way he lived made him old," she said.

The men served by the rescue mission over the years have become younger, Resh said.

On Thursday, the hundreds seated at long tables sang "Happy Birthday" to Resh before the meal was served.

"I love what we do," she said. "I love the work."

And 90 years of life and 51 years of helping those less fortunate have left Resh with the spirit of Thanksgiving instilled within her all year long.

"I'm just thankful for every day," she said.

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