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Pa. family REACHes out to others by turning tragedy into holiday help

December 25, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • REACH volunteer Terrance Hayward, left, serves a hot Christmas meal to Hagerstown resident Thomas Minnich Tuesday afternoon at REACH. Minnich is a former REACH resident who now lives in Hagerstown and came back to visit the staff and enjoy a meal.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

About four years ago, a tragedy changed the way Tony Bobbitt and his family celebrate Christmas.

The Greencastle, Pa., family suddenly lost their 19-year-old son, Kyle, who died from alcohol poisoning before returning from his freshman year at college.

“We didn’t want to do Christmas the same way anymore after that because it was going to be completely different,” Bobbitt said.

Searching for a way to give back to others and honor their son, the Bobbitts found a Christmas Day meal delivery outreach program in Hagerstown that seemed like a fitting tribute to Kyle, who went on several mission trips while he was in high school, his father said.

The Bobbitt family was among the 80 to 100 volunteers who helped serve and deliver about 330 turkey dinners Tuesday as part of the Community Christmas Day Dinner service, organized by Clarence Horst and his wife, Kathy, of Celebration Ministries, a local faith-based nonprofit.

Horst said the ministry realized there are people in the Hagerstown area who are shut in — some with mental or physical disabilities — and making it to the REACH Cold Weather Shelter at 140 W. Franklin St. for the meal just isn’t possible.

“They just needed some Christmas joy,” Horst said. “So we thought, they are not capable of getting to where we are. Why don’t we take a meal to them? Out of that grew this delivery process of delivering meals.”

The event, which started in 1998, is now in its 15th year, Horst said, adding that he encourages all his volunteers who deliver meals — many to senior citizens in places like Potomac and Walnut towers — to “bring a little more than just turkey to the door.”

“Because maybe some of these people are sitting around, maybe the only interaction they have with another human today,” he said. “... To have someone show up, knock on the door, smile at them, talk with them a little bit, encourage them, give them a meal. It really shows the love of Christ in a very practical way.”

The turkey dinners, which were plated shortly after 10 a.m. and out for delivery by lunchtime, came with all the trimmings — mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and cranberry sauce.

Serving up generous portions of gravy in the assembly line, Jacquetta Cardwell of Smithsburg said she helped with the meal two years ago, but not last year. She brought her mother and daughter along to help this year.

Christmas, Cardwell said, is much more than just opening presents.

“It’s about helping other people,” she said. “Those who don’t have and giving back. And as a family, we have to give back.”

The shelter also hosted dinners at 12:30 and 7 p.m., and Horst said he expected to serve about 100 people at each.

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