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Volunteers at free Easter brunch say outreach project makes them more appreciative

Sociology students prepare and serve meal and kindness at Lifehouse West

April 23, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Community College students, from left, Nell Barber, Stephanie Pulver and Gabriel Hirsch serve food Saturday at Lifehouse West Church in Hagerstown during an Easter brunch.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

When Sophie Warren says her prayers at night, the room often starts to tremble.

"I would like to say it's because of my powerful connection to God," she smiled.

But it's all about location.

Warren lives in a two-room apartment near a long stretch of railroad tracks.

"It's not much, but it's home," she said. "Many people have no place to live. I know I'm blessed."

Although she's unemployed and has health problems, Warren, 55, said she tries to stay positive.

"I have family and friends and the kindness of others to help me get by," the Hagerstown woman said.

On Saturday, that kindness came in the form of a meal.

Warren was part of a steady stream of people treated to a free Easter brunch at Lifehouse West Church on Salem Avenue in Hagerstown.

The meal included ham, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, dessert and drinks.

Those attending the brunch also were given a brown bag of food to take home.

The food was prepared and served by students of Hagerstown Community College sociology instructor Daniel Madron.

Madron said he met recently with Justin Repp, pastor of Lifehouse West Church, and the two began talking about how they could partner to serve the community.

"Justin had the place, we had the resources and people, so we decided to do a holiday meal," Madron said.

Involving his students in outreach projects isn't new to Madron.

While teaching at Howard County Community College and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, he often worked with the homeless, he said.

"In Baltimore, the homeless are more visible. They're living on the streets," he said. "Here, they're not so obvious. But there definitely is a homeless population, a working poor population in our community — families and children impacted by the economy."

Madron said he thinks it's important to get his students involved in outreach projects and "to learn what goes on in Washington County, in terms of people in need."

Many of his students also volunteered at The Salvation Army on Friday, where they served a luncheon to more than 200 people.

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Allison Grove, 20, of Hagerstown, said volunteering for Saturday's brunch was a rewarding experience. "I'm involved in a good cause, I'm helping others; but it also makes me realize how much I have," she said.


"We complain when we have to sit in the drive-through lane at a fast food place for 10 minutes," said Brandy Miner, 22, of Hagerstown. "For some people, this will be their only meal of the day. It puts everything into perspective. It give you a sense of appreciation for what you have."

"There are so many people in need," said Karen Welch, 28, of McConnellsburg, Pa. "I think sometimes people are oblivious to what's around them. Yesterday, at The Salvation Army, we served 108 people in the first 8 minutes. People were very appreciative — especially to know that there are people who care."

Courtney Hill, 20, of Clear Spring, said she was accompanied Saturday morning by her father and cousin.

"Volunteering is important in our family," she said.

Hill said being part of the brunch "makes you very thankful for what you have and makes you stop and think. We can eat this food whenever we want. For many people, a meal like this is rare and special."

Repp said organizers began getting the word out through an advertisement in the newspaper, but also made contact with places such as The Salvation Army.

"Reaching out to help others in our community is important to our congregation," he said. "We know there is a need. We very much see it every day. "

Repp said there's been "a tremendous increase in the number of people coming to the food pantry."

The church also recently launched a program delivering food to children in the West End.

"We're just trying to support people who need a helping hand," he said. "We're doing what God expects us to do. We're showing the love of Christ in very practical ways."

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