Local tradition warmly received

Posted: November 23, 2012

The Winchester Star

Volunteers Ethan Ramos, 12, and his mother Erin, both of Winchester, serve during the Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day Dinner at First Presbyterian Church. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Volunteer servers Audrey Price, 7, of Berryville and her brother Tristan, 13, give thanks during a prayer at the start of the meal.
Volunteer servers (from left) Hailey Brewer, 10, Hanna Plasters, 10, and Klaire Orndorff, 9, all of Winchester, eye desserts at the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day Dinner. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

REBECCA LAYNE

WINCHESTER — For the past 20 years, Thanksgiving has meant a hot meal at First Presbyterian Church for city resident David Russell.

“The food has always been good,” he said. “And they always make sure you get enough to eat.”

Russell, who is in his 50s, doesn’t have relatives to share the holiday with, but spending time with others at the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day Dinner is a close second.

“It means that you have a family,” he said.

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, more than 500 people had taken a seat to eat at the church on the Loudoun Street Mall and about 600 meals had been delivered to those who couldn’t make it.

By the end of the day, officials believed the number served would be about 1,200 — similar to last year’s count.

More than 200 volunteers served up 115 turkeys, 500 pounds of potatoes, 10 cases of green beans and more than 150 pies and cakes. Costco donated 1,000 rolls.

“With this bad economy, some people don’t have anything to put on their table,” said Lt. Alvaro Porras with the local Salvation Army.

Among those in attendance were 10 inmates from the White Post Men’s Diversion Center, who ate and helped clean up as part of their community service program.

“I enjoy being able to help,” said Chris DeHaven, 30. “You can make a small difference doing what you do.”

His cousin, Michael Myers, 22, said the Thanksgiving meal is better than the Diversion Center’s food, but both men missed being with loved ones.

“It’s nice seeing everyone, but it’s not like being with family,” Myers said.

Senior citizens Jim Dowell and Shelia Whitacre joined David Russell at his table. Neither had families to dine with, so they came to the church to eat.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” Whitacre said. “It really is.

“I’ve just met them today,” she added of Dowell and Russell. “It’s been great.”

Dowell said he liked the dinner because it allowed him to “share time with others in a Christian atmosphere.”

Volunteer Bob Cleaver, 65, a member of First Presbyterian, was glad the community could come together to celebrate with people “who need a good meal.”

“This event is like a feast of sharing,” he said. “It’s a community of faith and people giving back.”

Among the volunteers were the Millbrook High School girls basketball team.

Others supporting the event included Wesley United Methodist Church, Market Street Methodist Church, Fellowship Bible Church and the performers who sang and played instruments during the meal.

On Dec. 8, the Salvation Army will partner with Walmart in a “Filling the Truck” event. A truck will be in parked at each of the three area Walmarts, and people are encouraged to fill it with items for children — including clothes, toys and books.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com