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West End churches pitch in to put on community Christmas dinner at Grace United Methodist Church

December 15, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN ? Three years ago, Michelle Chavez was a single mother juggling a waitressing job with the demands of nurturing two children.

Some days were a challenge, she said. But problems were never insurmountable ? until she lost her job.

That's when her neighbors in Hagerstown's West End came to the rescue.

They offered to baby-sit while she looked for new employment and delivered home-cooked meals to her door.

"They helped without my asking," Chavez said. "I don't know what I would have done without them."

The story doesn't surprise the Rev. David Brosnan, interim pastor of Grace United Methodist Church.

"This is a tightly knit community," he said. "People look out for each other. There's a sense of caring that, unfortunately, is gone from many neighborhoods."

Brosnan said the churches within the city's West End also are community-oriented, offering a variety of programs that meet the needs of the residents.

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"At our church alone, we offer movie nights and youth activities, plus a food bank and clothing store," he said.

Saturday, the churches came together to celebrate the holidays with the people they serve by offering a community Christmas dinner.

"The event was a joint effort," said Rayetta Murray of Grace United Methodist Church. "We hosted the event, but all of the churches helped to make the dinner possible."

Murray said more than 150 people were expected to attend the dinner, which included turkey, ham and a variety of side dishes, plus dessert.

"There's been a lot of excitement building up to today," she said.

Volunteers had been working hard over the past several days, she said, preparing seven turkeys and three whole hams.

"But, despite the work, it's been a rewarding experience," she said. "We're already talking about the possibility of making this an annual event."

"It's a very uplifting day," Brosnan said. "A lot of families need a day like this."

Pat Clark, who is employed with ARC of Washington County Inc., attended the dinner with one of her clients and thought the Christmas dinner was "a wonderful idea."

"We need more of this," she said. "It's nice to see people caring about people. There is such a lack of love and compassion in this world. Something like this really brings people together."

Alita Harris said she attended the Christmas dinner with her friends because she liked the idea of sharing a meal during the holidays with the people you care about.

"This is nice," she said. "It's a chance to have good food and good conversation in pleasant surroundings. I'm really appreciative that people would take the time to do something like this for folks they might not even know. That's the Christmas spirit."

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