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Her vision from God feeds hungry

Holiday Spirit

Holiday Spirit

December 20, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Eva Seiler spent about a year stewing before she put her plan for a soup-and-sandwich ministry into action.

That was four years ago, and her idea has fed many in downtown Hagerstown since.

A member of the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, Seiler said she was inspired after a consultant came to their church about five years ago. Members were asked to consider what they as individuals could do to help the community.

Seiler's idea began simply with her passing out soup and sandwiches from her van in front of the South Prospect Street church. It has evolved into a hot meal serving up to 70 people from the church's kitchen.

"This idea came to me, a vision I had gotten from God," said Seiler, the mother of four.

Seiler said she served a cross-section of people, from businessmen to the homeless. Seiler's father, Mike Swope, and Lou Murray have been regular volunteers since early on -- Swope helps set up and take down tables and chairs, and Murray prepares and serves food, including her famous potato salad.

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The light lunch was served on Wednesdays in the colder months from fall to spring, about the same time period that the REACH Cold Weather Shelter was open.

Seiler knew those who stayed overnight at the shelter had to be out at 7 a.m.

"We try to accept them where they are and for who they are," Seiler said.

This year was the first time that Seiler and her fellow volunteers have served lunches during the summer, drawing families in need. The menu sometimes featured grilled hot dogs and ice cream, which were a hit with children.

Seiler stresses that the ministry is open to anyone regardless of income or need.

"It is a way to minister to people," she said. "It's not just food. It's to show the love of Christ."

Seiler always is looking for volunteers. The newest recruits, Michael and Joyce Hastings, learned of the program when Swope invited them to come to the meal, which is served Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The couple, who met in cooking school, were more interested in serving than eating.

Michael Hastings had cooked in a variety of restaurants before the grueling hours of food service led to disability. He missed working with people, and saw the program as a way to give back without the long hours.

In the almost two months that the Hastings have been helping, Michael Hastings has shown a knack for getting food donations and beefing up the menu with heartier, hot foods. Most of the volunteers still prepare and donate some of the food served.

The Hastings said they feel blessed to be part of Seiler's ministry, and appreciate how grateful the diners are for this program.

"She's got such a good heart," Michael Hastings said of Seiler. "People like her are hard to find these days."

For more information about the meal ministry, call the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown at 301-739-6337.

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