Christmas blessings abound at annual dinner By DENICE THIBODEAU dthibodeau@registerbee.com (434) 791-7985 godanriver.com

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With its usual precision planning, the 25th annual Community Christmas Dinner went off without a hitch Christmas morning as about 150 volunteers served up dinner to hundreds of guests at the Community Market.

Cheryl Sutherland, chair of the Community Christmas Dinner, said it seemed like slightly fewer guests attended the event this year — there were a few empty tables at the rear of the room — but numbers were up for meals served to shut-ins, with another pack of volunteers taking dinner to about 460 people.

“We planned food for 1,500, and we did run out of turkey,” Sutherland said. “But it did seem like we had a little less than usual (at the Community Market).”

Volunteers carrying drinks and desserts moved from table to table, followed by more volunteers who served dinner to the guests.

Some people arrived in large family groups, while others arrived along and found spaces at tables where they could enjoy some companionship on Christmas Day.

Shirley Moorefield, of Danville, arrived hoping to see her son at the dinner. Though she has lived in Danville her whole life — except for one eight-month period in Washington — this was the first time she attended the dinner.

Moorefield said she spent 35 years working for Dan River Inc., but most of her children have scattered around the county — one is in California and another in Charlottesville, with Moorefield’s five grandchildren.

As she scanned the room searching for the one son who lives in Danville, Moorefield sighed.

“He said he was coming over here and I decided to see if he was here,” Moorefield said. “I guess if I don’t find him, I’m by myself.”

Volunteers, too, were at the dinner for a variety of reasons.

Sandra Barnes said her children are grown and she felt a need to help others.

“We’re living in a time when we need to give back,” Barnes said. “This is really a wonderful community outreach; I don’t know of a greater blessing on Christmas. You come here to bless people and I think you get blessed.”

Tyler Pass is from Danville but now works in Toronto, Canada, for a company that does maintenance for railroads. He arrived in Danville Sunday to visit family — and serve up biscuits at the dinner.

“My family does Christmas on Christmas Eve, so me and my mom and dad decided to come down and help today,” Pass said.

Dinner was served at 11 a.m. and as soon as people were done they started lining up for the “gift room” — and volunteers began to clean and fold up the tables and chairs.

Volunteer Alonzo Jones controlled the line — shouting for people to “have your happy on or you go to the back of the line” — letting small groups in to a desk manned by Quincy Cunningham and Sydney Hughes. Cunningham and Hughes handed out yarn necklaces with punch tickets attached that got them into sections piled with different items they could choose from — blankets, coats, gift bags stuffed with toiletries or stockings for the children and the ultimate goal for the kids: the present table, where wrapped gifts were piled according to age.

People left with huge bags of gifts and volunteers had cleaned the place up by mid-afternoon.

“Now I can’t wait for June or July to get started on this again,” volunteer Qonell Totten — who has been volunteering since he was 15 years old — said with a smile.

 
 

Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee.

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