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Truckers get helping of heavenly hospitality

Hedgesville Baptist Church puts on tasty spread with a side of salvation

April 09, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Singing gospel music to the truck drivers who stopped by for food for the body and soul are, from left, Brenda Shepherd, Kayla Stevens and Donnie Shade.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — Sarah Godwin's job was easy Saturday. All she had to do was ask those who passed by her large United States map if they were truck drivers.

If so, she handed each one a colored pin to stick in their home state.

One drove from as far away as California, another from Arizona, others came from the Midwest, the South and the North, and some were closer to home.

By noon, Sarah, 10, of Greencastle, Pa., had passed out more than 80 pins.

All tractor-trailer drivers who drove rigs onto the former I-81 Flea Market grounds off Interstate 81 at Spring Mills Saturday were given a free meal washed down with a taste of religion.

About 35 members of Hedgesville Baptist Church on Butlers Chapel Road volunteered their time and kitchen talents to make Truck Driver Appreciation Day West Virginia a success.

The event was created and organized by the Rev. Scott Sheets, church pastor for nearly six years. Sheets said the idea to recognize the work and dedication of over-the-road truckers came from God, he said.

"He laid it on my heart," he said.

Large signs were placed near the north and south borders of West Virginia on I-81 inviting truckers to get off at Exit 20 for the event.

Church volunteers used CB radios to encourage truckers to stop. Drivers passed the word among themselves.

Sheets predicted that as many as 200 truckers could come for appreciation day. There was plenty of hot food on the long tables.

Truckers chose from hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst, potato and macaroni salads, Maryland crab soup, several kinds of chili, and cakes and desserts.

At a table before the food line, truckers were given the choice of a Bible and related literature plus religion-based sundries such as pens, coffee mugs and crosses.

Madison Stanley, 11, was handing out crosses and keychains.

"It's my job to help out," she said.

Trucker Sonia Harris thanked one of the orange-shirted church volunteers as she was enjoying plate of food.

"We really appreciate that you're doing this for us," she said.

Harris, an owner-operator from Phoenix, was hauling a load of merchandise for Home Depot from upstate New York to Winchester, Va., when she saw the church sign. Today, she'll load up again and point her International Pro Star rig toward Laredo, Texas.

Church member Curtis Smith and his son, Jacob, 12, of Inwood, W.Va., were stirring a large kettle of Smith's prize-winning chili. In the last two years, Smith said his recipe came in first and third in the Hagerstown Suns Chili Cookoff.

"This is an outreach," he said of the appreciation day. "I can't ever remember thanking a professional (truck) driver for all that they do."

"Trucks keep the world turning," Jacob Smith said. "If they ever shut down the country, we'd be done."

Robert Clopper, another church volunteer, was serving the hot food and coffee.

"We put a lot of time and work into this and we're here to spread the Gospel," he said. "If we can reach just one person with the gospel then our mission will be fulfilled."

Clopper is a private investigator and a bail bondsman in Maryland and West Virginia. He said whenever he bails someone out, he gives them a gospel to read and two pieces of advice.

"I tell them to go to court and to get right with God," he said.

Sheets, the pastor, is a former Martinsburg Police Department patrolman who left the force after 15 years of service.

"I was called by God," he said.

He got his religious training from Faith Bible Institute in Monroe, La. When not ministering to his flock, he drives a truck for a Hagerstown trucking company.

Several gospel groups and individuals provided music throughout the day. Popular among the crowd was the Singing Evangelist, Kenny Johnson, who bills himself as "the one-arm guitarist."

An added attraction Saturday was a line of older-generation trucks that were on display for visitors to see.

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