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What’s on menu? Christmas dinner for 100

  • Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.

    Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.

  • Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.

    Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.

  • Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.
  • Denny LaShier serves Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street.

GREENFIELD — For 40 years, Denny LaShier of Greenfield has cooked and served ham, potatoes, corn, gravy and chocolate cake on Christmas morning to more than 100 people.

Alongside LaShier is John Shiels of Greenfield, who prepares and cooks those meals.

Together, LaShier and Shiels, along with 20 other volunteers, work to provide the community a meal on holidays at the Salvation Army office at 72 Chapman Street.

The Salvation Army is a Christian denomination and international movement known for its charity. Not only does it provide meals, it offers clothing, food vouchers and a place to shower and clean up for the less fortunate.

Every year on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Greenfield office serves dinner. This year, the Salvation Army made 120 meals.

With a morning snow crunching softly beneath their feet, about 75 people arrived on Christmas morning to eat with neighbors. Another 17 meals were delivered to homes in Greenfield and Turners Falls. After a Christian blessing, chocolate cake dressed in white frosting was served.

“It’s for the homeless, for those who are lonely, for those who like to come spend the holidays with others,” said Captain Dan Brunelle, the Corps Officer at the Greenfield Salvation Army. “It’s important on these holidays that people in the community who are less fortunate and who are not able to get out to see their families have a place to celebrate the holiday and a place they can feel welcome.”

For many, the dinners served on Thanksgiving and Christmas, have become a holiday tradition.

“I love it. It’s a nice place. Everyone mingles,” said Peter Rice of Greenfield as he sipped on a warm cup of coffee.

Rice has come to the Salvation Army dinner for the past few years, including this past Thanksgiving.

“Everyone is lovely. It’s wonderful for them to do this for the neighborhood,” said Richie of Greenfield. He did not wish to give his last name.

It was Riche’s first time getting dinner Tuesday at the Salvation Army.

“I wanted to come see friends. I know many homeless people who really need this service,” he said.

The Salvation Army provides meals five days a week from Monday through Friday. The meals program is its biggest service. Last year, 40,000 meals were served.

LaShier and Shiels began volunteering on Christmas morning decades ago.

LaShier began volunteering for the Salvation Army as part of the Franklin County Rotary Club.

“I started and stayed with it,” LaShier said. “I enjoyed doing it. I’m glad to help people out.”

Shiels, a retired accountant, started volunteering 20 years ago as a member of the Kiwanis Club. Part of Shiels’ job is to count the $1 bills in the Christmas kettles volunteers use to collect donations outside markets.

“Growing up, giving back to the community has been something I’ve done since I was a teenager in the Boston area,” Shiels said.

The Salvation Army also sends volunteers out in December across Greenfield armed with red kettles to collect cash donations. The group set a $44,880 goal this year. But they exceeded it. Without counting the Christmas Eve collections, Brunelle said donations will exceed $48,000 this year.

“We’ve exceeded our goal and we haven’t had a full count yet,” Brunelle said.

The cash donations represent 15 to 20 percent of the budget used to provide meals, clothing and pay for operations at the Chapman Street facility. The budget for fiscal year 2013 is $304,000.

On Tuesday morning, about 20 Franklin County residents volunteered at the Salvation Army, cooking and serving dinner and delivering meals.

“We usually get more than we need for volunteers,” Brunelle said. “Greenfield has a community spirit that is inspiring. People in this community care about those who are less fortunate.”

Suzie Hale of Greenfield has helped serve meals for the past two Christmas mornings with her two sons, Sawyer, 12, and Jake, 16.

“I want them to know the real meaning of Christmas,” Hale said. “I’m trying to teach them the values of giving back to the community.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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