Church hosts third annual Christmas dinner

| 30 Dec 2013 | 11:16

The Wantage United Methodist Church upheld the true meaning of Christmas last Wednesday in hosting its third annual Christmas Dinner Event at the 1st Baptist Church of Sussex.

The dinner was open to the public.

With the help of almost 20 volunteer church members, the Wantage UMC served free meals to about 75 people.

"Christmas is generally about presents and Santa Claus," said Melissa Fortuna, the church's mission board chairwoman. "For me, it's about the dinner."

This is Fortuna’s third year organizing the Christmas dinner event.

"The idea is to serve Christmas dinner each December was hers," church Pastor Alfred Jaeger said.

Fortuna said when she first came to the church, it didn't have a Missions group. After helping to start one, Fortuna suggested the Sussex County Christmas dinner.

“I felt like it was needed,” she said. “The Harvest House, a nonprofit corporation, serves hot lunch every day, five days a week and works out of the First Baptist Church of Sussex, but they don’t provide a dinner on Christmas day. Nobody in Sussex-County, in fact, does a Christmas dinner. So I said, ‘Why not we do it?’”

According to the Jaeger, the dinner isn’t just held to feed hungry stomachs, but to fill heavy hearts, too.

“My wife and I have six children scattered around five states," he said. "When we woke up on Christmas morning, there was nobody home. Wondering how many other people share that situation was also one of the reasons this started three years ago.”

The church served 32 people the first year and 40 the second.

“This Christmas, the number was pushing 100,” Jaeger said.

Food was made and purchased by the Wantage United Methodist Church Mission Committee using funds raised throughout the course of the year. The Holland American Bakery in Wantage also donated some baked goods for the event.

"The Missions Board is definitely something that has been growing," Jaeger said. "Melissa adds a great deal to it. She's got a lot of good ideas."

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Fortuna said. “Believe it or not, I start getting asked in January if we’re going to be doing the dinner again. It’s something county residents anticipate and look forward to. I think it gives people a little hope and lets them know others care about them.”