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Local church feeds hundreds Christmas Day

By Catherine Godbey

For the Enquirer

For members of the Hartselle church of Christ, the free Christmas Day meal dubbed Feeding the Hundreds represents a tradition 12 years in the making. Minister Phillip Hines put the outreach effort, which touches more than 800 lives, in simple terms: “It is about putting into practice what we learn about every Sunday,” Hines said. “We’re particularly lucky because we get to do it on Christmas Day.”

The holiday feeding ministry started with one couple’s desire to serve the community on Christmas. Since organizations such as Meals on Wheels do not operate on the holiday, the Nelson family pitched to the church’s elders the idea of delivering meals to people.

That first year, the church served 300 meals.

“I was nervous we wouldn’t have enough food. We were asking the church to cook for 300 people,” Hines said. “That’s a lot of dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, turkey, ham and dessert.

“But the church bought into it. Not only were we helping others, we were also getting something out of it. It is always more of a blessing to give than to receive.”

This year the church planned on serving more than 800 meals.

Many of the recipients come from lists submitted by Meals on Wheels and area housing authorities. Others call the church asking for assistance.

As the list of recipients expands every year, so does the number of volunteers. The church was anticipating 150 individuals to volunteer for the Christmas Day event this year.

“People started bringing their children to help prepare the meals, then they started taking their children with them to deliver the meals,” Hines said. “This became a great teaching tool to show what it means to do for others. This is something people wanted their families involved with.”

Hines said he intimately understands the impact of volunteering for the outreach ministry. While delivering meals to housing authority recipients one year, an elderly woman standing at her front door caught his attention.

“She hollered at me and asked if I had an extra meal. When I carried the meal to the door, there was a tear in her eye. She was elderly, feeble and all alone on Christmas Day. She was so appreciative,” Hines said. “There are a lot of people

like her on Christmas Day – elderly and all alone. Because of how the price of everything has gone up, I imagine the need will be even bigger.”

Over the years, the ministry expanded into a community event, with individuals outside the church donating food and money and volunteering to prepare and deliver meals.

“My prayer is that this ministry will continue to grow and influence other churches, clubs and organizations to do something special for others,” Hines said.

Hines cited Matthew 25, when Jesus, talking to those ready for Judgment Day, said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

“To me, that is the driving force behind what we are doing,” Hines said. “We are here to show our love for the least in this world.”