WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The last several years have been sad ones for Howard Sprankle.
He said his mother died nearly five years ago, and Thursday marked the first time in three years that he wasn’t able to enjoy the free community Thanksgiving dinner with his father at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waynesboro.
“He had a (health) problem,” Sprankle said of his father. “I’ll have to take him a meal. I don’t like it. I wish he was here.”
Sprankle, 54, of Waynesboro, was among roughly 200 people who gathered around tables covered with orange and yellow cloths to enjoy the meal in the church basement.
As people dined on turkey, mashed potatoes and other holiday fare, they listened to Christmas carols that volunteers sang around a piano.
Jane Birt, director of Waynesboro Community and Human Services, said the meal has been offered for more than 25 years as a collaborative effort between Human Services and the Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches.
“This is something we do for the community,” Birt said. “There are so many without family members.”
Birt said the donated food was prepared beforehand and served by volunteers.
Organizers had enough food to serve 200 people, she said. They also made 44 deliveries to residents who couldn’t leave their homes.
Randy Davis, pastor of Jesus Alive Ministries in Waynesboro, said the event was a way to share the spirit of Christianity.
“It’s a great opportunity for the church to be the church ... to show up and be selfless,” he said. “That’s the idea. That’s what Jesus taught us — that service is near and dear to God’s heart. God is pleased when we act as his son.”
Davis said many youths from his church have volunteered at the event for the past several years.
“It makes Thanksgiving more satisfying,” said Davis’ daughter, 16-year-old Samantha Davis, who served as hostess. “There’s something about giving back to the community.”
Waynesboro resident Virginia Nolte, 56, said she believed the meal was a good way to socialize and enjoy fellowship.
She said she also liked the fact that she doesn’t have to go to all of the trouble of cooking and cleaning up.
“I think it’s great. It’s nice,” she said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have food for the holiday. A lot of people in the world don’t have a meal.”