PARKERSBURG - Although it was cold outside on Saturday, a traditional Christmas dinner was available inside at the 10th annual Friendship Kitchen Christmas Lunch at North Parkersburg Baptist Church.
Susie Meredith, with the outreach ministries of NPBC, said they served several more dinners then they had before and for the third year the dinner was served before noon.
"We had to start almost an hour early because of the crowd," said volunteer Frank Meredith. "We had gifts for up to 500 and we ran out, this is probably one of the biggest crowds we've ever had."
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Wrapping gifts were Shawnte Watson, left, and Michal Booth, right.
Susie Meredith said the event had some people who came up to three hours before it was scheduled to begin.
"They were waiting before 9 a.m. and we let them come in at 9:30 a.m.," she said. "They kept coming and coming. We had to starting serving at 11:15 and it was crowded, all the seats were taken. We had people standing outside waiting 20 minutes for a table."
Susie Meredith said the dinner was put on by more than 100 volunteers, many of them new to the Friendship Kitchen.
"We send a few out but most people come here for the dinner and the fellowship," she said. "We have some who come every year and there were several who had not been here before."
Saturday's dinner also included a store where those who came could get a gift bag filled with items to give to others for Christmas. Each package contained gifts donated to the church.
"Some people tell us they are getting gifts for themselves because they have no one else and that make you fell pretty humble," Frank Meredith said. "Some will break the gift up and give things to different people.
"It's just amazing what they will do."
Jamie Witkosky was among the volunteers at Saturday's dinner.
"We've been here since it started," she said. "We just come over and help out - it's just a blessing to feed all of those who are in need. It's also a great fellowship time, that's the most important part - fellowshipping with the our church members and our community, it's a blessed day."
Helping with the gifts were students who were members of the People to People organization. Paula Oliverio, with the People to People Student Ambassador program, said the students came to the dinner as their first service project. They are also raising funds to go to Europe this summer where they will do a service project as well, she said.
Oliverio said People to People was started in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower to promote international understanding.
"It was a way to connect students to the world," she said. "His hope was we could stop some of the violence in the world by showing students that students in other countries as just like them."