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Salvation Army in Hagerstown serves early holiday dinner

November 24, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The line of hungry people outside The Salvation Army Church in downtown Hagerstown was 30 people long Tuesday morning when a door opened and a woman in an apron leaned out.

"Today, I want you to sit down," kitchen manager Diane Rowe told the gathered crowd. "They're gonna serve you like a restaurant. I know we say this ain't a restaurant, but today it is."

On most weekdays, The Salvation Army's daily meal program provides lunch to about 70 people from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with participants collecting their food on trays from a serving window, Rowe said. But on Tuesday, as an early Thanksgiving celebration, The Salvation Army's feeding program was open an extra hour, and guests were served turkey dinners, drinks and dessert by volunteers.

The church expected to feed about 200 people Tuesday, Rowe said.

Rowe said she thought the opportunity to sit down and have a meal brought to their table was a refreshing experience for meal program participants, many of whom come from area homeless shelters.

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"I think it makes them feel like they're not coming for a free meal," Rowe said. "I think it makes 'em feel special."

The dinners served Tuesday included turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and pumpkin or apple pie with whipped cream.

The servers were members of a missions team from Grace Academy. Secondary principal Brian Kelley said the school likes to volunteer at The Salvation Army dinner to give students an opportunity to serve others in their own community.

"They want to serve people that they live with every day," he said.

The students said it was a rewarding way to volunteer.

"It's just a good experience, and you help people and see how you're giving back to the community," said Karla Shank, 15.

Guests said they enjoyed the food's home-cooked taste and the opportunity to get together with others.

Kathy Blackburn, 46, said she especially enjoyed the mashed potatoes, as well as the opportunity to sit down and have food brought to her.

"I really, really like that," she said. "That's a big plus."

Amos Robinson, 50, of Hagerstown, said he read about the dinner in the newspaper. He said he came to Hagerstown looking for work and has been staying at the REACH cold weather shelter.

"I'm glad God blessed me with this," he said of the chance to eat Thanksgiving dinner. "It was very nice."

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