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Shepherd's Table serves up true spirit

December 25, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

WILLIAMSPORT -- Volunteers celebrated the true spirit of Christmas by serving a free meal to others Thursday at the Rehoboth United Methodist Church in Williamsport.

People filtered in and out of the church basement to eat turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, stuffing and pumpkin pie alongside friends and strangers, who gathered at tables that were adorned with white cloths and poinsettias.

"I think it's great," said James Barger of Hagerstown. "It helps people who don't have a family to go to. It promotes fellowship."

Bill Eckard, coordinator of the dinner, known as the Shepherd's Table, said volunteers from Rehoboth and other area churches started fixing 16 turkeys on Tuesday. The rest of the dinner was prepared in the church kitchen early Thursday morning. About 70 percent of the food was donated, he said.

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Anyone was welcome to attend, Eckard said, and meals were delivered to people who were unable to leave their homes.

"We don't check credentials when they come through the door," Eckard said. "They come in for the friendship if they don't have family around."

Eckard said volunteers fixed enough food for about 250 people, but he would be "pleased if 100 showed up." Any leftovers probably would be taken to the Salvation Army, he said.

The Shepherd's Table on Christmas was an extension of a weekly event, also known as the Shepherd's Table, that the church holds on Thursday's between 5:15 and 6:30 p.m., he said. The weekly version is held to feed just about anyone who needs a meal.

Eckard's wife, Laura, said the Shepherd's Table was a calling to help others.

"We just feel it's a gift from God," she said. "The Bible says to serve others, and that's what we're doing."

Laura said about 40 people volunteered to cook, serve and clean up.

Albert Williams and his wife, Patricia, said they attended the dinner because their children no longer live in the area.

"It's just fine," Albert said. "We didn't have anything else to do. We were hungry."

Hagerstown resident Diana LeVasseur said she heard about the Shepherd's Table from her parents.

They later decided to eat there together.

"It's great," she said. "The food was pretty good. I'm stuffed."

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