Christmas dinner feeds over 400

PARKERSBURG – The annual Christmas Day dinner attracted more than 200 people to the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church at 1341 Juliana St. on Wednesday.

Volunteers prepared more than 200 meals to-go before the doors of the fellowship hall were opened to the public at noon Wednesday.

For a half-hour, people streamed into the church and filled their plates with turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and desserts of all kinds. Coffee and lemonade were served, while an accordion provided Christmas tunes as entertainment.

Wednesday’s event was the 20th year that First Presbyterian Church has held its Christmas Day dinner, inviting the community to come and have a hot meal surrounded by others for the holiday, said the Rev. Mike Seely with First Presbyterian. Lunch was served from noon through 2 p.m. Wednesday.

More than 30 volunteers started working in the church’s kitchen at 8 a.m. Wednesday to get ready for the event, said Seely. The volunteers ranged from elementary school students to those in their 80s. Many volunteers came from other churches in the area, he added.

All of the food served on Wednesday was donated by local stores, said Seely.

“The donations this year were amazing, and we want to thank all of the restaurants, merchants and volunteers for all the help that they provided today,” he said.

At 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, volunteers began setting up additional tables to provide room for everyone to sit and eat in the church’s fellowship hall.

“Oh, what a wonderful problem to have,” said Seely as he went to help set up those tables.

Once the crowd was served, diners were invited to take second portions of the food. Starting at 1:30 p.m., they were invited to take a plate of food with them to eat later.

“Every year, we put this on because we know there are people out there in our community that could use a place to eat Christmas dinner with other people,” said Seely. “We know that it is better to give than to receive. We see this as our opportunity to take seriously Christ’s words to feed the hungry. What better day to put this into practice than on Christmas Day,” he asked.

Hand-knit gloves, hats and scarves were handed out to people who needed them during the dinner, said Seely.

“We hate to see people leave and go back into the cold,” said Seely. “Members of our church knit the items and are giving them away today to the people who could use a hand staying warm this winter.”

Jessica Peterman, 13, volunteered to help with the dinner by carrying dirty plates back to the kitchen and helping straighten up as needed.

“I like helping people who don’t have the things that we have,” said Peterman. “The only thing I asked for during Christmas this year was to be allowed to come here and help out the homeless and those who needed a place to eat Christmas dinner,” she said.

“I had no idea there were this many people in Parkersburg who didn’t have homes and who needed our help,” said Peterman.

Layne Miller, 9, also volunteered at the dinner. He also helped to clear dishes, and waited on handicapped diners.

“It’s really important to help out here for Christmas,” said Miller. “Lots of these people are homeless and don’t get anything at all for Christmas. I think it reminds you to be thankful for everything you get,” he said.

Pastor Janet Richards, with Downtown Bethel Church on Market Street, was present to assist where she could at the dinner.

“I think that this is absolutely awesome,” said Richards. “Pastor Seely must have a heart of gold, and I am thrilled to see how this turned out. It just goes to show you that, when you get a lot of people together, they can do really amazing things.”

Earlier in the day on Christmas Day, Evangelical Methodist Church held its second annual free Christmas breakfast at its Family Center at 1906 Gihon Road. The church served pancakes and sausage to more than 50 people on Wednesday.

The church provided the breakfast as a way of spreading the word of Christ and the reason for the season through the community, said Pastor Jeffrey L. Williamson.

“This was our second year offering the Christmas breakfast,” said Williamson. “It was very successful and gave us a way to give back to the community.”