Imagine having to prepare a full-blown Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings for 400 people. That's just what the staff and volunteers at the Upshur Parish House in Buckhannon are staring at on Christmas Day.
The meal is open to the public, and it will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church on West Virginia Route 20 in Buckhannon. The Parish House has been hosting these dinners at both Christmas and Thanksgiving for the better part of a decade.
"We don't think anyone should be alone at Christmas," Parish House director Rev. Alicia Rapking said. "We have a very festive setting. It takes a lot of work, but we love it. It's the highlight of our Christmas."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Andrew Bohman, left, and his mother Beth Bohman stuff food baskets which will be distributed to needy Upshur County families by the Parish House volunteers.
The event takes about 60-70 volunteers, who come in on Dec. 22 to cook the turkeys and hams, or who come in on Dec. 23 to set up the tables and chairs. Others come in during Christmas Day to cook the side dishes, serve the food or help to clean up afterward.
The meals are available for delivery, and that can be arranged by calling either 304-472-0743 or 304-472-3152. The meals will be delivered on Christmas Day between 11 a.m. and noon.
"It takes a lot of grace and a lot of prayer," Rapking said about the hectic days surrounding the dinner. "But I've come to realize that the people in this area really love each other and are willing to help when the need arises."Rapking said two freak storms, the derecho in June and Superstorm Sandy at the end of October, knocked power out for days to local residents. Many of those residents lost their entire food supply and had no way of replenishing it. Those people turned to the Parish House for help, which depleted the agency's food pantry.
"The community stepped up to help us replace our food," she said. "The donations continue to come in."
Rapking said the joy of giving to the community is what the Christmas season is all about, and she said that's what keeps her coming to the Parish House day after day.
"It's not about receiving; it's about giving," she said. "It's what people do that inspires me to keep going. "I'll do whatever I need to do. That's what keeps me going."