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LifeHouse Church Bethel offers food, fellowship

December 25, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A few hundred people got a Christmas boost on Friday: a free meal at LifeHouse Church Bethel on East Wilson Boulevard in Hagerstown.

For hundreds more who couldn't leave home, Christmas food came to them.

"The holidays can be a very lonely time for folks," said David Rodriguez, the young families pastor at LifeHouse Church Bethel.

The Christmas meal there started in 1998.

For years, it was an afternoon alternative to Christmas With Nick, a community feast that fed as many as 1,500 people each year at the former Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

Christmas With Nick ended in 2002. Bethel Assembly of God Church, as it was known then, picked up some of the slack.

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In 2002, about 280 meals were served at the church and delivered to others.

This year, organizers figured on about 500 meals at the church and to go.

That included about 240 that volunteers took to Walnut Towers, Potomac Towers, Alexander House and other local housing complexes, said Dave Shinham.

Shinham and his wife, Fannie, supervised the second half of the dinner, after Ed and Kim Kennedy were there for the first half.

Clarence Horst of Celebration Ministries and his wife, Kathy, watched over meal deliveries, plus a shuttle that brought in residents from the REACH cold weather shelter on West Franklin Street.

One was John Baker, a Pittsburgh native who said he's been in the Hagerstown area for about 47 years.

He's been living at the cold-weather shelter for about three weeks. He was staying at his girlfriend's place, but they are spending some time apart, while staying in touch.

She was with family on Christmas. Baker said he missed her and looked forward to seeing her today.

Baker said the poor economy has made it tough to find jobs that used to be plentiful.

"I go out two, three days a week and put out applications," he said.

Chad and Nancy Hook of Hagerstown had high praise for the food and the company.

The couple moved to Hagerstown several years ago for "opportunity and love," Chad Hook said.

LifeHouse Church made them feel like family.

"It's like the community sitting down and eating a meal together on the holiday," Chad Hook said.

Janet Gilotti was thrilled to be at LifeHouse Church Bethel.

She said she and Ann Short, her friend and neighbor, decided to spend the day together instead of staying home alone separately.

Short said her only company would have been her schnauzer, Jay Jay.

"Everything is wonderful," said Gilotti, who moved to the Hagerstown area after retiring from a Washington, D.C., government job. "I love it here."

"It's been one of the best Christmases I've had in awhile," she said.

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