By CALEB CALHOUN
2:36 PM EST, November 21, 2012
A former homeless veteran cooked up a Thanksgiving feast for more than 250 people at the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving meal Wednesday.
“It’s important to give back what was given to me, and that was help when I needed it,” said James Rhinehart, the cook for the Salvation Army’s Daily Feeding Program. “These people are human beings just like everybody else.”
Rhinehart said the program on busy days typically provides meals for around 170 people, but that number went up for Thanksgiving.
“This is one of the best days where they can come in and sit down, and they’ll actually have somebody serving them instead of going through the line,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if nobody helped me, and now I can help somebody else.”
Food, including 24 turkeys, began to be served at 11 a.m., and lines continued to form inside the Salvation Army building on Wise Street, just off of West Franklin Street in Hagerstown, for at least the first half hour.
Hagerstown resident Terry Cassidy, 61, who uses a wheelchair, showed up for the meal.
“This gives you a chance to talk to and meet other people in the neighborhood,” he said. “You get to know them better, and it gets you to know Christ better.”
Cassidy said he regularly seeks assistance from the Salvation Army.
“They’re a Godsend on my wife and (me),” he said. “They’ll help you with any kind of assistance you need.”
For the third consecutive year, Hagerstown Community College Professor Daniel Madron and his sociology class were on hand to help with the dinner. The class provided 11 of the turkeys and other supplies through fundraising by the students, Madron said.
“I don’t know that a lot of students have the opportunity to give back to the community,” he said. “There’s stuff we talk about in class about homelessness, and they can relate that material to the real world.”
Madron, who did work for the homeless as a student at Eastern University in Philadelphia and as a professor at Howard Community College before moving to Hagerstown Community College, said giving students the opportunity to provide services to the needy can change perceptions about the people they are serving.
“Hopefully some of the students have a chance to interact with some of these folks,” he said. “It can help breakdown some of the stereotypes about low-income folks.”
The students helped to provide, cook and serve the food. At least five of them would be working with the food in the kitchen at one time.
Madron estimated that the class spent around $600 on the dinner, which was raised through multiple fundraisers by the students, including asking different grocery stores for gift cards and asking their friends and families for donations.
Greencastle, Pa., resident Charles Ford, 35, a first-year paramedic student at HCC who is in the class, described working at the dinner as an “eye-opener.”
“We’re talking about different walks of life, different genders, different people, and they’re all here,” he said. “The poverty line makes everybody equal.”
Ford spent time in the kitchen helping to cook and plate the food. His classmate, Amber Sharps, a second-year nursing student at HCC, said that the work gives the class hands-on experience with what it is studying.
“It’s helped us to grow as a class together,” she said. “It’s not just book knowledge. It’s kind of like an internship.”
She said working at the dinner allows the class to help the community.
“There are people that don’t have the resources that we do,” she said. “We can make sure that the needs of the community are taken care of.”
Madron’s class also helps with the Salvation Army Easter Dinner each year.
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