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Volunteers create early 'holiday spirit' at Bel Air Thanksgiving dinner

Volunteer Lou Ann Jasper serves guest Michael Warden, of Belcamp, during Hope in Action's eighth annual community Thanksgiving dinner at the Bel Air Armory Sunday afternoon.
Volunteer Lou Ann Jasper serves guest Michael Warden, of Belcamp, during Hope in Action's eighth annual community Thanksgiving dinner at the Bel Air Armory Sunday afternoon. (David Anderson/The Aegis/BSMG)

Perry Dawson of Aberdeen might have to work on Thanksgiving Day, and that posed a question for him.

Could Dawson, who works with Beacon Staffing, an Aberdeen-based temporary staffing firm, still “get turkey and sit down with people to have a Thanksgiving dinner?”

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His answer was to attend Hope in Action’s eighth annual community Thanksgiving dinner held Sunday at the Bel Air Armory.

“I have been wanting to come, and the ability to get here today was presented, so I took the trip and I'm very happy that I did,” Dawson, 66, said.

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The early dinner provided by Hope in Action, during which 150 to 200 meals were served, is one of several community dinners in the region this week. Similar dinners will be served in Havre de Grace and Perryville Thursday.

Bel Air resident Raymond Holder also enjoyed an early Thanksgiving meal at Hope in Action’s dinner.

“I enjoy every minute of it here, actually,” said Holder, 24, who attends Sunday services at the armory and partakes of the community meals that follow, provided by Hope in Action’s parent organization, Central Christian Church of White Marsh.

The church’s main campus is in White Marsh and the Bel Air Armory is its satellite campus.

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“Their service is lively, and it's definitely healing to the mind,” said Holder, who plans to spend Thanksgiving at his grandmother’s home, where he expects there will be five generations of his family in attendance.

The armory’s main gymnasium buzzed with activity as volunteers served meals, talked with the guests, ran children’s activities, performed and helped visitors take bags of non-perishable items to their vehicles.

“It’s good to get out with a crowd of people,” guest Michael Warden, 59, of Belcamp, said.

Central Christian Church members affiliated with the Bel Air campus acquired the food, such as 15 cooked turkeys from Beilers Barbeque in Joppatowne, as well as mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans that volunteers prepared in the Armory’s kitchen, according to Bonnie Prater, leader of Hope in Action.

Store-bought pies, rolls and drinks were also available, according to Prater.

About 50 people volunteered, including people not affiliated with the church.

Karin DuBois and Kristyn Ferraro, both of Bel Air, are volunteers with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization that builds and distributes beds for children in need.

DuBois said she and Ferraro volunteered at the dinner “just to help out” in the community.

“It was great,” she said. “It's nice seeing all the people coming out there to help [the guests]; it gives you a sense of holiday spirit.”

Five players with the Towson-based U-13 youth soccer team BRAUSA United Futebol Club, along with their parents, helped guests bring bags of nonperishables to their vehicles. The bags had been prepared by members of Central Christian.

Parent and team manager Kim Staigerwald, who had volunteered with her mother as a child in Baltimore, said she wanted to “build that foundation for [the boys] of giving back.”

Her 12-year-old son, Kyle, participated, along with teammates Nathan Selby, Nathen Jones, Jeremiah Barber and Dominic Bourgeois.

Staigerwald said the club’s president is a member of Central Christian and helped put her in touch with Prater.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 2236, based at Hickory Elementary School, performed for the guests and ran the children’s activity area during the dinner.

Diner James Flowers, 36, of Aberdeen, learned about Hope in Action about five years ago when he was homeless in Bel Air.

He attended the ministry’s Sunday dinners, and it helped put him on a path out of homelessness, he said. The disabled veteran now has a place to live and has found work through Alliance Inc., an affiliate of Mosaic Community Services.

The Timonium-based Mosaic serves about 30,000 people a year in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties and Baltimore City, with outpatient and residential mental health services, vocational support, occupational therapy and substance abuse recovery, according to its website.

Flowers said he wanted to show Hope in Action “respect and love for the things they do.”

He stressed the importance of having, when one is homeless, “just somewhere to come, somewhere that gives you a message and gives you some hope.”

Flowers plans to start work soon as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army in front of stores during the holiday shopping season, collecting money in the organization’s signature red kettles.

Fellow diner Dawson said he was a bell ringer about two years ago, and he shared tips with Flowers, such as putting cardboard under his feet to stay warm.

Dawson said it’s important how ringers present themselves to “help affect somebody else and open their minds” to donate.

“I think I gained an awful lot out of it,” Dawson said.

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