Community Christmas dinner Saturday

David and Sarah Harbin prepare food for the upcoming community Christmas dinner this Saturday, Dec. 23, at The Upper Room and Gathering Place, located in downtown Haleyville.

HALEYVILLE     - Gatherings of friends and family are key during the holiday season, so a special invitation is being given for anyone needing a meal to gather at The Upper Room and Gathering Place for a homecooked meal prepared by community volunteers.
The community Christmas meal will be served at the Upper Room and Gathering Place, located at 807 20th Street in downtown Haleyville, Saturday, Dec. 23, from 2-4 p.m., according to David and Sarah Harbin, directors of the ministry.
Community volunteers for the holiday dinner, as well as the ministry’s daily soup kitchen, are increasing more and more, the Harbins stated.
The ministry furnishes a soup or food kitchen daily, providing hot meals to those who would like to stop by Monday through Saturday from 5-7 p.m. and Sundays from 2-4 p.m.
“The first few weeks we were open, it was three to five people a night,” Harbin stated. “Our highest night so far has been 29 people.”
However, The Upper Room is altering its regular hours this week in preparation for Christmas.  The ministry will be open from 2-4 p.m. on  Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24,  and on Christmas Day, Monday, Dec. 25, from 5-7 p.m., according to organizers.
Organizers have learned some lessons from their recent Thanksgiving community dinner, so they are making some adjustments to their community Christmas meal, David stated.
During the Thanksgiving meal, organizers and volunteers were trying to make home deliveries, give takeout orders and seat people to eat all from the back room of their location.
The Christmas meal will be organized so that all who wish to dine-in will be directed to the building’s main entrance facing Alabama Avenue.
They will brought into a large open room that usually serves as a sanctuary for conferences that will be converted into a dining area with tables and chairs.   They will be served food brought to them from the back of the building, David noted.
Those who would like to pick up food they order via Facebook Messenger, can get the takout orders and leave from the back of the building, organizers added.
“We will have volunteers organized to work those two areas,” David stated.
Signs will also be posted instructing where volunteers or the public should go at the rear of the building, he added.
A traditional holiday meal, sponsored by Listerhill Credit Union and Jack’s Family Restaurants,  will include ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, rolls, “heavenly” eggs and desserts, organizers pointed out.
Jack’s will be providing the macaroni and cheese, with Listerhill donating $500, which will be used to purchase hams for the dinner, Sarah stated.
This is all done thanks to a major increase in community volunteers, many of whom will prepare their portions of the holiday meal at their homes and bring them to the Upper Room.
Upper Room strives to meet multiple community needs, from physical to spiritual, in a caring setting.  The ministry feeds anyone in need, including the homeless,  the needy and the elderly, in efforts of being the hands and feet of Christ, the Harbins stressed.
“There is a need outside of this special time of year,” David pointed out. “There’s need in the community.  It’s not necessarily just the homeless and the needy.  It may be the elderly. There are other needs out there that need help, and we as a community, as the hands and feet of Christ, meet those needs.
“We’re meeting a physical need, but there’s still a lot more needs out there.  There is going to be a spiritual need down the road,” he added.
“We had so many volunteers for Thanksgiving.  It was amazing,” Sarah said. “We had people who walked in the door the day of saying, ‘Hey, I want to volunteer.’
“We have already had close to 40 people on our Facebook page request to volunteer  (for the Christmas dinner), and that is aside from our normal slot of volunteers,” Sarah added.
In all, Upper Room is preparing to have upwards of 40 volunteers to help with their community Christmas dinner, they said.
“A lot of our volunteers have either been homeless and on drugs or they have had family members who have been homeless and on drugs,” Sarah said. “I would say 95 percent of our volunteers have that history.”
This means that volunteers put more of a heart into helping with these meals and events, according to organizers.
Around 170 plates were served for Thanksgiving, with organizers expecting to serve at least 200 plates for the Christmas dinner.
Therefore, organizers are asking anyone who would like a Christmas meal to please contact them in advance through Facebook Messenger or call  (205) 394-8215 or (205) 494-5445.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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