Melanie Rimel-Holloway has been working behind the scenes of Hope in Action’s community Thanksgiving dinner in Bel Air for the past eight years, running the kitchen during the event, but she was front and center Sunday as the leader of the team putting on the dinner.
“I think it was remarkable,” said Rimel-Holloway as the dinner, which was held in the main gymnasium of the Bel Air Armory, wound down Sunday afternoon. “From the volunteers to the people who came in, I just thing that God definitely provided.”
Hope in Action is a ministry of White Marsh-based Central Christian Church, which operates a satellite campus in the Armory. The church holds Sunday services there and provides weekly meals for the community.
The Thanksgiving dinner in Bel Air precedes community dinners happening this week on Thanksgiving Day at the Havre de Grace Community Center and at American Legion Susquehanna Post 135 in Perryville.
Rimel-Holloway took over the leadership of Hope in Action’s dinner this year from longtime coordinator Bonnie Prater, after Prater moves to Florida with her husband.
Rimel-Holloway led a team of four other church members — Bonnie Duffy, Lou Ann Jasper, Jill Bednar and Deana Keifer — who coordinated food donations, volunteers, entertainment, transportation and putting together bags of non-perishable food guests could take with them.
“As a group, we are trying to make this meal work,” Rimel-Holloway said.
About 50 volunteers participated, including church members and their friends and relatives. There were about 120 guests, according to Rimel-Holloway, who estimated 160 to 170 meals were served to volunteers and guests.
Other community groups supported the dinner, too. The We Cancerve Movement, founded by teenage cancer survivor Grace E. G. Callwood, donated breakfast items for the take-home bags.
Brownie Scouts in Girl Scout Troop 1111, of Havre de Grace, made Thanksgiving cards and beaded bracelets that they passed out to guests and volunteers as they ate. Amy Weitzel, co-leader of Troop 1111, led a quartet of youth and adult musicians, including her daughter, Sarah Weitzel, Carson Way and his best friend, Garret Gladfelter, in performing holiday music.
All three children are in the fifth grade at Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace, according to Erica Gladfelter, Garret’s mother and the co-leader for Scout Troop 1111. The girls in Troop 1111 are in the second grade, Gladfelter said.
Weitzel played her clarinet, while her daughter played trombone and the boys played trumpet.
“Enjoy your food and, hopefully, enjoy our music with it,” Weitzel told the guests.
Erica Gladfelter said troop leaders “think it’s important for the girls to come here and help out and to give back ... to give something to somebody, to make them smile, to give them more than just a meal.”
John Hagegeorge, who grew up in Fallston and lives with a friend in Kingsville, sat and enjoyed his meal with Dave Stover and Roger Taylor, both of Aberdeen.
Hagegeorge, 54, said he attends the Hope in Action dinner if he is in town for the holidays.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming to the Town of Bel Air and experiencing this wonderful event they’ve had for many years,” he said.
Hagegeorge said the dinner is a “well-known place to come for the holidays, if you want to spend quality time with friends and people in the community.”
He said he is also looking forward to the “Thanksgiving feast” happening Thursday in Havre de Grace. Gladfelter, who joined Hagegeorge and his two fellow diners, said he plans to be there, too, volunteering.
He received a greeting card from a Girl Scout and said he will hang it on the refrigerator.
“It’s very warming to see these young kids that are hand crafting greeting cards for all the people that come to [the dinner],” he said.
Dwight Lee Green, who said he is homeless, enjoyed his dinner with a friend, who is letting him stay with her, and her grandchildren. He said he is working through Winners' Choice Healthcare Services LLC, of Aberdeen, to find a place to live.
He encouraged people to call him at 410-994-6211 to give him donations so he can have a good Thanksgiving and Christmas and “start a brand new year off right.”
Green said the food served Sunday was “delicious,” and the service from volunteers was “great.” He also praised the company.
“The music was excellent,” he said.
Mike Mazziott and Loretta Speicher, members of the church’s prayer team, sat down and prayed with Taylor at his request. Both placed their hands on Taylor’s shoulders as they prayed with him.
Speicher later looked over her list of prayer requests she received from guests.
“The thing that gets me is, most people don’t ask for prayer for themselves, but they ask for prayer for someone else,” she said.
Speicher noted that Jesus Christ would, when he walked among the people, sit down and have a meal with them.
“That’s where relationships started to build with him, was over a meal,” Speicher said. “That’s when the walls come down and people start to talk.”