(Dec. 21, 2012) St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church hall on Third Street will be festively decorated, with music playing, to put everyone attending the NOEL Community’s 15th annual Christmas Day dinner in the holiday spirit.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., NOEL (Nothing Other than Eating and Loving) will serve not only a hot holiday meal — turkey and ham with all the trimmings, but volunteers will also provide fellowship and companionship to guests who may not have anywhere else to go on Christmas Day.
The atmosphere in the hall is “absolutely incredible,” said Katie Coffman, chairwoman of the NOEL planning committee.
“It’s just a beautiful place to be. Both the guests and volunteers look forward to it,” she said. “It’s an upbeat and positive place, with music playing and the decorations.”
Jody Farley and Valerie Gartland, with help from the Rev. Bryan Glancey, former priest at St. Paul’s, organized the inaugural Christmas dinner in 1998. The church had supplied baskets for families at Christmastime, but Farley and Gartland wanted to offer a hot meal for the holiday to those who were homeless, un-employed, underemployed, shut-in or alone, as well as to people who simply wanted to socialize.
This year, more than 100 volunteers will prepare, serve and deliver the food on Christmas Day. Local restaurants have donated turkey breasts and hams for the dinner and businesses, organizations and residents have contributed toys and money.
Two trees will be set up in the church hall, one with stuffed animals for children and another trimmed with gloves and hats for adults. A tree will also be adorned with candy.
Children will have the opportunity to visit “Toy Land,” a room filled with holiday gifts. Adults will receive toiletry kits. Santa will be at the hall to greet guests.
Coffman said the church hall was filled to capacity last year. The holiday dinner began at 11 a.m. and a line to get in formed around 9 a.m.
The NOEL Community served approximately 1,300 meals last year.
About 400 visitors dined in the hall last year, and each was provided a meal to take with them. Volunteers also delivered food to members of the police and fire departments and public service workers on duty that day, as well as to shut-ins and others who could not make it to the church.
Approximately 900 meals were carried out or delivered.
Those who will be unable to get to the church this Christmas may request a delivered meal.
Non-perishable food, clothing, toiletry items and monetary donations are always accepted and can be dropped off at the church. Mail checks, made payable to NOEL Community, to P.O. Box 1207, Ocean City, Md. 21843.
Coffman said there is an ongoing need for items in the church’s food and clothing pantry, which is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to noon. The pantry will be open Christmas Day.
One of NOEL Community’s other projects is serving lunch to those in need. Some of the leftover food from Christmas dinner will be used to make lunches following the event.
The group was able to provide lunch at the church every Saturday in 2011. Guests who came in for lunch were also given a sandwich and snack to take with them. The NOEL Community prepared more than 6,300 meals last year. In 2012, the group again offered lunches on Saturdays, as well as on about a dozen other days.
January through April, guests are invited in for a sit-down hot meal. They can also take a hot meal with them as well as a sandwich and snack. An average of 200 meals are distributed in a day, Coffman said.
From May through December, lunch and sandwiches are provided. Between 80 and 100 meals are distributed each week.
Coffman said the NOEL Community is on target to serve about 8,000 meals/sandwiches in 2012.
The 11th annual gLOVEs drive, another NOEL Community project, will take place in February. The NOEL Community organizes the gLOVEs drive with a Valentine’s Day theme, asking people to open their hearts and share the gift of warmth and love by donating new gloves, hats, socks and blankets.
For more information about the Christmas dinner or the NOEL Community, call 410-289-3453.