HAGERSTOWN — People celebrating Thanksgiving a day early enjoyed a free meal at the Salvation Army community center in Hagerstown on Wednesday.
“It’s what Thanksgiving’s all about,” Rushon Louie said.
Louie has been staying at the REACH of Washington County shelter for a few weeks since coming back to the area from South Carolina. He said he’s looking forward to having his own apartment at the end of the month.
Joe Rubino of Hagerstown was on the other side of the counter, helping to funnel meals out to diners who requested them — “keeping everybody happy,” as he put it.
Rubino said he and his girlfriend, Stephanie Hinh of Harrisburg, Pa., wanted to do something to help the community, so they volunteered at the dinner.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “I didn’t realize how busy it gets around the holidays. It’s very humbling.”
The dinner was organized by Hagerstown Community College’s sociology department, including teachers Daniel Madron and Daniel Ryan and their students.
Ryan said students donated food, money and time.
“It’s not theory. It’s not research,” Ryan said. “It’s about action in the community.”
Or, for students Stephanie Pulver and Gabe Hirsch, time in the kitchen. That’s where they were early Wednesday morning and where they remained hours later, part of an assembly line filling plates with turkey, stuffing, cranberry and other trimmings.
Ryan said they tried to focus on healthy food and drinks, such as all-natural cider.
Madron said the group expected to serve between 300 and 400 plates during the 90-minute meal.
Afterward, they were going to the Community Action Council to help distribute large family-sized meals donated by a Bob Evans restaurant.
Ralph Quezeda of Hagerstown said he has had meals at the Salvation Army before, but not for Thanksgiving. He declared the food tasty and the portions generous.
“There’s plenty of it,” he said.
That was part of the appeal for Patricia Smith of Hagerstown, who hadn’t been to the Salvation Army for a meal in a while.
On Wednesday, Smith stopped by “because I was hungry and I love turkey,” she said. “And I’m trying to put a couple pounds on.”