Then Donald, a carpenter, stopped hunting after he fell 9 feet onto concrete during a job, said Donald Hutson, 75, who lives in the Huyetts Crossroads area. So turkey became the new Christmas Day entree.
But for the past three or four Christmases, the Hutsons have gotten their Christmas dinner from the Shepherd’s Table at Rehoboth United Methodist Church on East Salisbury Street in Williamsport.
“Couldn’t be any better,” Donald Hutson said of the meal.
On average, 200 people receive a free meal on Thursdays at the church through the Shepherd’s Table, said Laura Eckard, whose family started the weekly and Christmas meals.
On Tuesday, about 250 people were served a Christmas dinner, said Eckard’s husband, Bill.
Organizers were aiming for 300 people, but the Christmas meal crowd has averaged about 250 people in recent years, he said.
The Eckards’ daughter, Sara “Sadie” Fox, 31, started the weekly meal as a Girl Scout Gold Award project when she was a senior at Clear Spring High School, Fox said.
When she started classes at Hagerstown Community College, her parents took over organizing the weekly meals. The Williamsport Ministerium, a group of several Williamsport-area churches, helps run the Shepherd’s Table, with each church taking a turn hosting and providing food for the Thursday meals, which are always at Rehoboth United Methodist Church, the Eckards said.
The ministerium, as well as community donations, funded the Christmas dinner, Bill Eckard said. Several family members, friends and members of participating churches volunteered to prepare and serve the food, and clean up, he said.
The menu included ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and corn, sauerkraut, cranberry sauce and plenty of desserts.
The Shepherd’s Table also was providing takeout meals for people who were ill or shut in, Laura Eckard said.
It was Laura Eckard who suggested at least seven years ago that the Shepherd’s Table start offering a free Christmas meal, her husband said.
“I just felt like God was calling us to open it for Christmas,” Laura Eckard said.
Judy Souders, 70, said she and her husband, Jimmy, came to the Christmas Day dinner because their four children are grown with families of their own. While their children were visiting in-laws, the couple, who live across the street from the church, enjoyed a holiday meal at the church.
“It’s always good,” Judy Souders said.
Asked if attending the holiday meal saved her from cooking, Souders smiled and laughed as she said, “Yes, it does.”
When Jimmy Souders, 74, was put on the spot by being asked whose holiday meal was better — the Shepherd’s Table’s or his wife’s — he answered, “Oh my. Well, I don’t know.”
“What do you think?” he asked his wife.
“It’s up to you,” she told him.
“About the same,” he said.