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Holiday mission: feeding the needy

November 27, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The Union Rescue Mission in Hagerstown dished up 300 pounds of turkey, 275 pounds of potatoes, three cases of sauerkraut and a case of white corn at its free Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, not to mention countless pies and cakes, cook Dexter Cutler said.

That was enough to fill the bellies of about 200 needy people, and that, in turn, makes it easier to fill their souls, mission work supervisor Melvin Smith said.

"It's a little hard for them to understand anything when they're saying their stomach's growling," Smith said.

So mission volunteers began arriving about 5 a.m. to prepare the complimentary feast, which included preparing sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and dressing, Cutler said.

The turkeys were cooked by Antrim House Restaurant in Greencastle, Pa., he said.

The rescue mission has been hosting Thanksgiving dinners for more than 25 years, and by now, staff and volunteers have it down to a science.

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"When you cook for that amount of people, you get to know what you need," Cutler said. "It becomes old habit."

The 30 to 40 volunteers don't mind spending their Thanksgiving at the mission because they see it as a way of serving God, Cutler said.

"It's the giving part of Thanksgiving and Christmas that I get the most out of," he said.

Smith said he knew he would have a meal waiting for him when he went home, but he knows that for many of the dinner's guests, the meal he serves them will be the only one they eat that day.

The highlight of the afternoon was when a man who lives alone in a senior citizen high-rise came back to the kitchen to thank the staff for giving him somewhere to spend Thanksgiving.

"It makes you feel good," Smith said.

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