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Volunteers, donors and diners enjoy Williamsport dinner

November 26, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- A Williamsport church opened its doors to the community this Thanksgiving to dish out not just turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, but free coats, hats and shoes.

Williamsport United Methodist Church has been hosting free Thanksgiving dinners for the community for many years, but its Clothes of Hope ministry is new this year, said Diana Church, coordinator of ministries.

The church collects donations of all types of clothing and offers it free to anyone who needs it, Church said. Some people leave donations, which the church uses to buy underwear, socks and other items it cannot accept used, she said.

Clothes of Hope is open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays year-round, she said. The church started it in August and already has a room full of clothing hanging from racks and stacked in bins.

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"Our donors have been very generous," she said, adding she has been impressed with the quality of the clothing donated.

Many who came to the church for its Thanksgiving dinner stopped by the clothing room before leaving.

Cheryl Barger, 48, said she was looking for clothes for herself and for her husband and appreciated the church's generosity.

"It means a lot to me," she said.

Barger said she enjoyed the turkey and mashed potatoes, but just as important to her was "just spending time with people."

Williamsport United Methodist Church normally serves about 300 people each Thanksgiving, including some meals that it delivers to people unable to leave their homes, Church said.

This year, the church roasted 19 turkeys, which were donated by the congregation, she said. It also served stuffing balls, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, sauerkraut, green beans, hot dinner rolls, cranberry relish, sweet tea, punch, coffee and a variety of deserts, Church said.

About 25 people volunteered to cook and serve the meal, including several families with children, she said.

One of those was the Phillips family of Martinsburg, W.Va., who were planning to eat their own Thanksgiving dinner on Friday instead of Thursday. John Phillips, 32, said his wife worked a night shift Wednesday night and was sleeping on Thursday.

"So we figured we'd come out and help out and give back what God's given us," he said.

His children, Lauren, 15, Justine, 12, and twins Matthew and Cohen, 4, helped by putting utensils on trays, picking up dirty dishes and wiping down tables.

Church said she thought the volunteers got as much out of the event as those who came to eat.

"I think they like the feeling of being able to give back to the community and help other people," she said.

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