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Friends, strangers break bread at Rehoboth United Methodist

December 25, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

WILLIAMSPORT -- Friends and strangers gathered to share a free Christmas meal Friday at Rehoboth United Methodist Church in Williamsport.

Neighbors James Barger and Diana LeVasseur said they drove from Hagerstown for the meal, which included turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Barger said this Christmas was a little sadder than usual because his mother died in July.

"It's my first Christmas without her," Barger said. "It's lonely without my mom."

LeVasseur said the Christmas dinner provided people with a place to enjoy fellowship.

"We just like to come here and eat," LeVasseur said. "It cheers me up a little to come here."

Bill Eckard, who founded the dinner about four years ago with his wife, Laura, said eight Williamsport-area churches joined forces to prepare the meal. Volunteers started cooking 12 turkeys Wednesday, he said, and finished up with everything else shortly before the doors opened at 11 a.m. Friday.

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The meal was served until 2 p.m.

Eckard said organizers planned for about 250 people, but there was only a slow trickle early on.

He said no one would be turned away.

"It's not just for the needy, but for everybody," Eckard said. "We can't segregate people. It's not what God would want."

Eckard said Rehoboth United Methodist Church offers a free dinner, known as the Shepherd's Table, every Thursday from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. He said those dinner also are open to everyone.

Charles Southard of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he heard about the Christmas meal through word of mouth and decided to take his wife, Holly, and 9-year-old daughter, Irena, because their relatives left town for the holidays.

"We felt lonely and came to get a meal," Southard said. "It's great. It's a nice thing to do for people on Christmas."

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