Rehoboth United Methodist Church dishes out Christmas cheer

December 24, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Esta Richards, left, of Williamsport takes her complimentary orange and candy cane from Rehoboth United Methodist Church member Janice Dye during the fifth annual Shepherd's Table Christmas Day dinner.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — People who wanted someplace to go on Christmas were invited to Rehoboth United Methodist Church on East Salisbury Street for a hot meal and some camaraderie.

As of early afternoon, shortly before the meal was over, around 75 people had stopped in, said Bill Eckard, an organizer.

“It’s been a steady flow,” he said.

Diners passed through the serving line for turkey, ham, sweet or mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, corn, sauerkraut, rolls and cranberry. Cakes and pies were among the sweets offered for dessert.

Eckard said volunteers spent more than nine hours on Thursday preparing 14 turkeys for the meal, which was sponsored by the Williamsport Ministerium.

After putting in time as volunteers, David and Cathy Hixson of Leitersburg took a break to eat.

David Hixson said the free-meal tradition started slowly about five years ago. At times, there were more volunteers than diners.

But through word of mouth, more people heard about the meal from friends in subsequent years and tried it. “Just knowing it’s happening is not the same as knowing something about it,” he said.

Eckard said organizers planned for 250 meals this year, just in case.

Each Thursday, a free meal is served at the church through a program called Shepherd’s Table. Eckard said it often gets about 150 people and sometimes more than 200, due in part to the shaky economy.

Hugh and Miriam Allen have been to the weekly Shepherd’s Table meal and figured they’d visit for Christmas, too.

Otherwise, “I’d be hunting for a place to get something to eat,” instead of staying home, Hugh Allen said.

As he finished his plate, he added, “It’s delicious, very good — more than enough.”

Erma Monroe of Hagerstown, trying the free Christmas meal for the first time, called it nice, with a friendly atmosphere. She sampled “a little bit of everything,” she said.

She sat across from Harry L. Edwards, who lives alone at Potomac Towers in Hagerstown. He also spoke well of the food.

“It was great to be with other people rather than staying home by myself,” he said.

Kory Shipe, 9, was one of the youngest volunteers. He sat near the door and kept track of how many adults and children stopped in.

As diners left, Kory wished them “Merry Christmas” and gave them an orange, a candy cane and a flyer about the Angel Food Ministries program, which helps needy people get groceries.

Other volunteers came from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to David Hixson.

One was Autumn Cook of Martinsburg, W.Va., who read about the meal in the newspaper and figured it would be a good way to help others on the holiday.

“I just felt like giving back to the community,” she said.

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