The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 25, 2012

Christmas dinner draws big turnout

Patrick Buchnowski

JOHNSTOWN — Many people spent Christmas Day in the warm embrace of family. For others, it was the embrace of a surrogate family.

About 100 people gathered at Christ Centered Community Church in Johnstown on Tuesday for the third annual Community Christmas Dinner.

Volunteers served turkey, ham, potatoes, green beans, bread and salad. Desserts were donated by Giant Eagle.

Bills Sands and four or five others from a halfway house ate their share of turkey.

“We can’t be with our families, so this is about as good as it gets,” said Sands, of Altoona. “It’s nice to see the kids. In jail, there is no happiness.”

“We certainly get an eclectic group of individuals,” said the Rev. Sylvia J. King. “The door is open to everyone. It’s an opportunity for them to fellowship with each other and enjoy the day together.”

Deacon John Thompson reminded the dinner guests of the reason for the gathering.

“God has given us the greatest gift, Jesus Christ,” he said.

“This country is going through a stormy time. Jesus Christ is here to help us through the storm.”

Several city police officers paid a visit to the church at 531 Somerset St., as did Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky.

“I just wanted to show support for the community,” he said.

“You can’t be everywhere, but if we can make an event, that’s what we should do.”

 The afternoon included worship, a sermon from the Christian Bible and children’s gifts.

Nonprofit organizations Beginnings Inc. and Cuddles for Kids donated Barbie dolls, games, puzzles, coloring books, stuffed animals and other gifts.

Each year the holiday dinner attracts more people and more donations, King said.

“We’re very excited. Each year it’s grown,” she said. “That’s a blessing. It tells me who cares about the community.”

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