Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 25, 2012

Union mission distributes Christmas dinner, hugs

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — For many people, Christmas Eve is a time for last minute shopping, making the final plans for Christmas dinner or traveling to the homes of loved ones, but volunteers at the Bluefield Union Mission used their day before Christmas to help other people enjoy the holiday.

While food distributions were underway Christmas Eve, preparations continued for Christmas Dinner at the union mission. The mission will begin serving hot meals at 12:30 p.m. today, said Executive Director Craig Hammond. People can eat at the mission or carry out a meal.

“Whoever shows up gets fed,” Hammond said.

Christmas Eve food bag distributions started sooner than scheduled at the union mission, he said.

“We started early because everyone was standing in the rain,” Hammond said. “They had to be miserable out there.”

The people who came to present their ticket and receive a bag of food for Christmas dinner were not miserable for long. Many of them received a hug from volunteer Katherine Akers Hidalgo, who is visiting her father, Bill Akers of Princeton.

“This is my first day,” she said. “My mom used to do really grassroots things to help people when I was little.”

Her husband, Oliver Hidalgo, was cradling future volunteer Gretchen, now a year old. She was watching all the activity and how her mother gave hug after hug to people who needed one.

“I want her to understand that life is helping other people,” Katherine said. “We want her to grow up knowing this is what you do with your life.”

The Christmas Eve food distribution was the 81st for the union mission, Hammond said. Approximately 300 people had signed up for a food basket, but the mission tried to provide a food bag to other area residents who arrived at the door. Hammond estimated Monday that 350 bags of food would be distributed.

“It’s good that they help us,” Linda Sarver, of Brushfork, said after receiving her food. “I don’t know what I’d do if they didn’t do this, but I’m glad they’re here to help me.”

Christmas dinner would be hot dogs if it wasn’t for the donors and volunteers at the mission, said Kelly Abernathy, 50, of Bluefield.

“If it wasn’t for this, I really wouldn’t have anything,” she said.

Volunteer Leeanne Greene, of Bluefield, was carrying her son, Bradly, who was having his first Christmas.

“My husband and I will come and help on Thanksgiving when we’re in town,” she said. “It feels so good after we help. It’s something we should try to do year round. I can remember doing it when I was younger. This is what you remember about Christmas, not what presents were under the tree.”