By C.J. LOVELACE
7:52 PM EST, December 25, 2012
Lew Thomas used part of his Christmas morning to help a neighboring family have a nicer holiday.
Thomas, a Fayetteville, Pa., resident, was one of close to 100 drivers who took hot, freshly prepared turkey dinners Tuesday morning from The Salvation Army in Chambersburg, Pa., and delivered them to shut-ins and less-fortunate people all across Franklin County.
Thomas said it was his first time volunteering as a driver for the event. He said the family to whom he took meals lives in a schoolhouse in the Duffield, Pa., area, with “eight or nine” disabled children, many requiring extensive care.
One died on Christmas Eve, he said.
“It’s just sort of natural for me to do this,” Thomas said. “It’s good to help out. ... It’s a blessing.”
A new high for the annual Christmas dinner, about 250 meals were sent out people around the area, including clients of Franklin County Meals on Wheels and Office on Aging, as well as workers at the county 911 center and the Pennsylvania State Police, organizer Lynne Newman said.
On top of that, Newman estimated another 250 to 300 people attended the dinner inside the large Salvation Army hall on Lincoln Way West.
Handling just about all the cooking and prepwork, Newman, who is Jewish and doesn’t celebrate Christmas, has coordinated for the event for the past 21 years.
In total, approximately 150 volunteers — some of whom have helped for 10 years or more — helped prepare, serve and deliver the meals, consisting of 22 turkeys, 40 pounds of bread for homemade stuffing and much more. Aside from the turkeys, about “95 percent” of the food was donated by the community, Newman said.
“There’s so much negative out in the world ... and then you come in here, where people just want to help. They just want to do it,” Newman said. “There’s so many nice people out there.”
Some volunteers came into The Salvation Army at about 5 a.m. to assist Newman with the turkey and other trimmings, while others came in to help serve and clean up after the meal ended at about 2 p.m.
Bob Funt, a volunteer from Gettysburg, Pa., was one of several people in the kitchen plating meals for the guests.
“It’s just something wonderful to do,” he said.
No one walked away with an empty stomach, and few left without arms full of presents.
Newman said about 1,200 donated gifts for children and adults were given away. Some walked out with as many as 10 presents, she said.
Phyllis Bittinger of Chambersburg held up a little leather Harley-Davidson jacket that her grandson, 2-year-old Daniel, just received from volunteers after he sat on Santa Claus’ lap in the dining room. She was with her husband, Richard, son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Sue Bittinger, and their other two children, Zane and Xander.
“I think it’s wonderful that they do this,” Phyllis Bittinger said. “It makes a big difference.”
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