Area volunteers serve meals on Christmas day
By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
As the saying goes, it is better to give than to receive, and several groups of people in Rowan County spent their Christmas doing just that, giving back to those in need.
First Baptist Church in China Grove held its first Meal of Hope Christmas evening, fixing enough food for 400 people.
The idea for the Meal of Hope came from Mark Honeycutt, and his son, Timothy.
“We just thought it’d be nice to have a Christmas meal,” Mark said. “People are lonely and some don’t have anyone at Christmas. This is more of a ministry than anything.”
First Baptist collaborated with Main Street Mission and was able to receive food donations from Food Lion and IFH. Food Lion donated 32 turkeys, 28 of which were prepared for the Meal of Hope. The leftover four were given to Main Street Mission.
“Mark and Tim kept talking about wanting to do a Christmas meal,” Mark’s wife, Norma, said who was anxious about it all coming together. “God truly has worked a miracle through this. I never dreamed Food Lion would donate all the food.”
On the menu was ham, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green beans, corn, rolls, tea, and dessert, and there was plenty to go around for second servings, thirds and fourths.
One of the church members got Patterson Farms to donate poinsettias for the tables, and the church members donated all of the desserts.
“Most of the volunteers here tonight aren’t even members of the church,” Norma said. “As soon as the article was in the paper, the phones started ringing. People really wanted to help.
“We just thought, since the food was provided, God would send the people here to enjoy it.”
Norma’s other son, Michah, helped his father Mark and brother Tim cook, which they worked all week.
“I call this event a Christmas miracle,” Norma said. “It just all came together.”
Cecil Libscomb of Granite Quarry said he received a flyer on his door about it earlier in the week and has been thinking and waiting for the meal ever since.
“I have no family down here at all,” said Libscomb, who is originally from Seattle. “I waited until about 5:30 p.m.; I didn’t want to seem too anxious.”
Libscomb moved to Rowan County looking for work after losing his job in High Point.
“This is wonderful,” he said. “And I love to eat. I’ve been waiting for this all week.”
Bobby and Patsy West of Rockwell appreciated the church and volunteers having the Christmas meal.
“I think it’s a good thing because a lot of people are hungry,” West said. “It’s the way things are now, and there are a lot of people who don’t have food on the table.”
Doug McDonald, a member of First Baptist, said he wouldn’t celebrate Christmas any other way.
“This is a great way to do Christmas right here,” McDonald said. “Sharing with our neighbors spiritually and through food, and making new friends. This is what Christmas is all about.”
Volunteer Kevin Edmiston helped serve the food.
“I wanted to pass along all the blessings my family’s been given to some of those who have been less fortunate,” he said.
“Since the economy is so depressed, there are people in the area who need help,” said another volunteer, Donna Hampton.
Volunteer Mary Short brought her daughter along to teach her how to give back.
“I wanted to teach my daughter the true meaning of Christmas,” Short said. “It’s not about gifts under the tree.
“It’s just a blessing to help others. I’ve been in the predicament they’re in when my husband didn’t have a job. It’s tough.”
“It’s good to help others,” Short’s daughter Kelly said. “No one should be hungry.”
“It’s been really nice,” Norma said.
Also lending a helping hand on Christmas were volunteers at Rowan Helping Ministries, who came from Rock Grove United Methodist Church.
Volunteers Oliver and Rita Kizziah manned the laundry station while other volunteers, Brenda Sheppard, Carol Harrell, Faye Bennett, Chaz Phipps and Ted Phipps controlled the kitchen.
“This is a good mission for our church,” Rita said. “I really enjoy the people, and just being here and helping.”
“We enjoy the fellowship, too,” Brenda Sheppard said.
“After I came here the fourth or fifth time, I started volunteering on the other side,” said Rita.
One shelter resident, James “Bubby” Phillips, has taken full advantage of the programs Rowan Helping Ministries offers, and has also found help through the New Tomorrows programs with Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
Phillips moved to Salisbury from Virginia in 1988, worked at Food Lion for several years and is now recovering from two knee injuries. He was living with his father until October 2008 when his father passed away. Last February was Phillips’ first experience with Rowan Helping Ministries. He left in July, but had to come back for help.
“When I left in July I couldn’t wait to come back and volunteer,” Phillips said. “They’re great people and they treat you great. I don’t know what people would do without it (Rowan Helping Ministries).”
Phillips said the New Tomorrows program was very beneficial to him and his friends.
“It keeps us off the street and out of the weather,” Phillips said. “We get to go to their classes and learn a lot of life skills.”
Phillips has since joined the congregation at Park Avenue United Methodist Church, and has also been baptized.
“The church and Rowan Helping Ministries has changed my life completely,” Phillips said.
Phillips said his favorite Christmas memories as a child were going to his grandfather’s house, spending time with all of the children, grandchildren and his uncles.
“There were always at least 40 people in the house,” Phillips said. He also said one of his favorite memories was the last Christmas he had with his mother.
This year a friend picked Phillips up Christmas morning and he was able to watch the friend’s two children open their Christmas gifts.
“Watching their faces when they opened their gifts was great,” he said, noting that Rowan Helping Ministries and New Tomorrow gave him hope to someday have a place of his own.
“Salisbury could use two of these places,” he said. “This place is godsend.
“The staff from the shelter to the helping part of the staff, everyone is incredible. You see people crying because they got their light bill paid.
“People around here (Rowan County) need help, and not just the homeless people.”
“We’re trying to help people help themselves, and get them off the streets,” volunteer Oliver Kizziah said. “My favorite part about this is the people out there knowing that someone cares about them.”
“We all have bad times and we just need someone to listen,” Rita Kizziah said.