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The Thanks Is in the Giving

This Thanksgiving Day those in need and searching for a harvest table filled with food for both body and soul need look only as far as Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church (UMMC). There they will find both.

For the second year in a row, the church, located at 8605 Engleside Office Park, just before the Lukens Lane intersection with Route 1, will provide a full Thanksgiving Day meal for the needy and lonely. "The dinner is prepared and served by volunteers, " Laura M. Derby, Rising Hope programs and office administrator, stated.

"We have been getting between 60 and 70 people. It's one seating, and it's done as a family meal, since this becomes the family of those attending for that period of time," she explained.

"It's a one-hour event from noon to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. It matches the regular lunch time daily at the Route 1 Community Kitchen [ROCK]. They are closed that day, and we have taken over to give them a break," the Rev. Keary Kincannon, pastor, Rising Hope UMMC, said .

"It's a whole mix of people. Some just don't have anywhere else to go and are lonely. We get people on that day we don't see any other time of the year," he said.

ROCK does a lunch every weekday from noon-1 p.m. Two years ago Rising Hope offered to take over on Thanksgiving Day. The ROCK luncheons will commence again on Friday, according to Kincannon.

IN ADDITION TO the prepared meal, Rising Hope also made its usual distribution of food baskets on Tuesday. Each contained a turkey and a variety of other foods to prepare a holiday meal, Derby pointed out.

"This is our sixth year for the baskets. We started by giving out about 35. We are now up to 160 families, which means food for approximately 400 people," she said.

However, due to economic conditions, the church has been hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for food supply coupled with the ever-increasing need. The total amount of nonperishable foods on hand has steadily diminished. Presently, it is approximately 30-percent below last year's total, according to the church.

In recent weeks the request for food has increased more than 8 percent. This represents a gain of 65 people per week. It has become a constant struggle to keep the food pantry stocked, Kincannon said.

In addition to the Thanksgiving Day dinner and food baskets, the same demands will occur in just 26 days. The procedure is repeated for Christmas, with dinner served on Dec. 25, preceded by the food basket distribution.

Anyone interested in donating food may do so each week Tuesday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the church. For further information on supplying food or serving as a volunteer, call 703-360-1976, or e-mail Derby at risinghope@erols.com.

UNITED COMMUNITY MINISTRIES (UCM), headquartered on Fordson Road, is also supplying hot holiday meals to senior shut-ins on Thanksgiving Day, according to Sharon Kelso, UCM executive director. They are being delivered by the Knights of Columbus, Kelso said.

"The meals go to about 150 families in all. Of that total approximately 30 are senior shut-ins," Kelso stated.

UCM also gives out Thanksgiving meal items to nearly 250 people. These include such things as a turkey, walnuts, cheese, sugar, flour, rice, and dried cranberries.

"We distribute things that work well for meals in general, not just for Thanksgiving," Kelso emphasized. "They are given to families we serve, which are those that are eligible for food stamps and Medicaid."

Those in need can draw regularly on the UCM pantry. But, like Rising Hope, there is more demand and less supply.

UCM recently held an educational session on what food items are appropriate for distribution to the homeless. Donations should be of nonperishable items and those that can be preserved without refrigeration.

"Items such as pasta and canned soup cannot be included in food items given to the homeless," Deborah Halla, UCM development officer, stated. "They usually do not have access to refrigeration or cooking facilities."

Halla said, "Often they don't possess can openers, and supplying them raises the possibility of confrontation with other homeless who might want to steal such an item. Many homeless suffer from dental problems. This makes biting into fruits, such as apples, very difficult, if not impossible."