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'Sense of community' served with feast in Martinsburg

November 23, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jodee Arndt reached for Tim Foultz's empty plate on Thursday, and Foultz quickly stopped her.

"I think I'm going to go up for seconds," he said.

Arndt assured the disabled veteran that he could eat as much as he wanted, using a new plate each time at the "All are Welcome" community Thanksgiving dinner hosted at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

"It's a sense of community that you can't get at a restaurant. ... It's nice to be with people I'm at least familiar with rather than sitting in front of the television," Foultz said.

In 2006, the church served an estimated 950 meals and likely matched that Thursday, according to Helen Harris, who oversaw the organizing committee.

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"Someone asked me early today whether I'm ready. I said, 'It's going to happen whether I'm ready or not,'" Harris said.

She was calm as volunteers tended trays of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and sauerkraut.

"Someone asked me how we know what to fix. We walk by faith," Harris said.

The meal, originally the idea of Harris' husband, drew 350 people in its first year.

"This is the definition of community because it's people from all walks of life eating a meal together," Harris said.

The volunteers also packaged carryout meals to meet requests.

"It's good for people like him and me. It's just the two of us," said Barbara Adcock, who ate with her husband, Steve.

"The dressing is the best I've ever had," she said.

Eleanor Wilkes of Frederick, Md., joined her parents, Bill and Maria Wilkes of Falling Waters, W.Va. Maria Wilkes talked about her "fun" experience volunteering with the preparation.

"Last year, we heard about it a lot in church," Maria Wilkes said.

Frank Sherman of Martinsburg described the food as "excellent" and arrived at the church hungry.

Joey Arndt, 7, volunteered again this year while his father made the family Thanksgiving dinner at home. Joey brought his friend and neighbor, 5-year-old Maddi Jones, to assist.

"I like to help, and it's one of my favorite things to do - help people," Joey said.

He said Maddi was enjoying herself because she likes to pretend she is a waitress.

The pair ate vanilla cake on a break from cleaning place mats.

"It's perfect," Joey said.

Maddi said the cake was good, but Joey chastised a reporter for asking such an obvious question about the quality of cake.

"All kids like cake," Joey said.

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