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Churches in Ocean City, Berlin provide free holiday meals to those in need or working Thanksgiving Day

LISA CAPITELLI ¦ Assistant Editor

Ocean City Baptist Church and Berlin First Baptist Church provide free turkey dinners with all the trimmings annually on Thanksgiving Day, and they will continue the tradition this year as volunteers are already preparing for the 2012 holiday event.

The objective of the dinners is to bring members of the community together for companionship and fellowship; specifically, those who might otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone or hungry.

Guests may dine at the churches, take their food with them or have it delivered to their homes on Nov. 22.

Ocean City Baptist Church has offered an annual Thanksgiving dinner for 33 years. It was started as a community outreach project, and attendance has steadily increased throughout the years. Many of the same families come back year after year, while there are also some new guests who come for dinner, said Robin Derrickson, director of Ocean City Baptist Church’s crisis ministry.

Last year, volunteers served approximately 700 meals, a few short of the number prepared in 2010. Organizers are expecting to provide about the same number of dinners this year, Derrickson said.

The church, located next to 7-Eleven at 102 N. Division St., in downtown Ocean City, will host the event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

“It’s a huge family. Everyone is talking to each other and helping each other,” Derrickson said of the Thanksgiving Day experience. Typically, 65-70 people volunteer their services throughout the day. Volunteers are still needed for the 2012 holiday celebration.

“We see many of the same people who come not only to eat, but to help and serve,” Derrickson said. “We also see some new faces each year, too.”

The church will collect food and monetary donations through Sunday. For more information or to inquire about what items are still needed, call Ocean City Baptist Church at 410-289-4054. Those who are unable to leave their homes in West Ocean City or Ocean City may have dinner delivered. Call in advance to provide the address where volunteers should take the food. Volunteers will also take food to city workers, fire personnel, EMTs and police officers who are on duty that day.

This will be the 26th year Berlin First Baptist Church, located at 613 William St., will offer the free holiday dinner.

“Our church family looks forward to reaching out in ministry to the community with our 26th annual Thanksgiving dinner. Our emphasis this year is to have folks come to the church and share a meal together or pick up carryout meals,” said Office Manager Sharon Parsons, who also coordinates the event.

Volunteers served 500 meals last year, approximately 50 more than the church provided in 2010. Many guests participate annually, but there are also new diners each year, Parsons said.

“We are still taking calls, but we are planning for 500-plus,” Parsons said. “We do have many of the same folks year after year, and they say they look forward to it each year. We have new folks each year and new volunteers wanting to be part of this ministry.”

The Thanksgiving feast is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Between 30 and 40 people usually assist in cooking, setting up, boxing meals, serving and delivering food that day. Volunteers are still needed for this year’s event. Those interested in helping should call the church at 410-641-4306.

Parsons describes the atmosphere at the church that day as “amazingly calm and everyone is filled with joy, sharing a wonderful experience of sharing the love of Christ through a simple meal.”

Whether dining at First Baptist or ordering food to go, people are asked to call the church to reserve their meal. All are invited.

“We are set up to serve meals at the church, or folks can pick up carry outs. We will make a very limited number of deliveries for shut-ins [in the Berlin area],” Parsons said.

Items are not being sought for the dinner, but donations are always welcome for the church’s food pantry.

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