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Feeding the hungry feeds their souls

Salvation Army meal volunteers make helping others a tradition

Dennis LaShier and Dominic McLellan, both of Greenfield, volunteer at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, morning. They served a ham lunch to more than 50 people. Recorder/Anita Fritz

Dennis LaShier and Dominic McLellan, both of Greenfield, volunteer at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, morning. They served a ham lunch to more than 50 people. Recorder/Anita Fritz

GREENFIELD — Dennis LaShier began serving Christmas lunch to the town’s hungry at the Salvation Army more than 40 years ago and said he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

“I started helping out in the kitchen 41 years ago and a few years later they put me in charge of the kitchen and I never left,” said LaShier, a former town councilor who with about 14 others prepared about 80 meals on Christmas morning.

LaShier said he volunteers every Thanksgiving and every Christmas Day.

“I really enjoy this — I love giving back and helping others,” said LaShier, “and these volunteers are a fine group of people to work with.”

LaShier, who arrived at the Salvation Army Wednesday morning at about 9, said he’d be there until about 2 p.m., because after preparation, setup and serving the meal, there would be cleanup.

He said most people who reserve a lunch are either homeless, poor or lonely.

Volunteering for holiday dinners is a tradition for other, too.

Tony Bovino of Deerfield said he began volunteering three years ago.

“Giving your time and something of yourself isn’t that big a deal when you consider that it’s only one or two days a year,” said Bovino. “This just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Joy Parsons of Sunderland said she began volunteering with her husband five years ago. She said he died after the first year, but she kept going.

“People need help and it just breaks my heart to see them here,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing my little part as a Christian.”

Cindy Gonzales of Greenfield volunteered alongside her 13-year-old daughter Hannah on Christmas morning.

“We’re making this our tradition,” said Gonzales.

“I like helping people and seeing their expressions when they’re eating, drinking and talking to each other,” said Hannah Gonzales.

John Shiels of Montague, who manages the dining room on Christmas morning, said he began volunteering in 1995.

“I’ve always been involved in community service,” said Shiels. “Someone asked me years ago and I couldn’t say ‘no.’”

Shiels said like most volunteers, he and his family celebrate Christmas later in the afternoon.

“This is just part of our holiday,” he said.

LaShier said enough food was made to feed the 50 who reserved a spot, the 20 who ordered takeout, and another 10 who might walk in off the street.

He said the lunch consisted of ham with brown sugar and pineapple, mashed potatoes with gravy and corn, For dessert, there were pies, cakes and other goodies.

Fifteen-year-old Dominic McLellan, who helped serve meals with his mother, said this was his first year volunteering, but said he already knows he’ll be doing the same next year.

“I really wanted to find a way to give back and I’ve found it,” said the Franklin County Technical School student. “It’s really been worth it so far.”

The meal was served at 11:30 a.m., but people began filling the dining room at about 11, picking at the bread, pickles and olives at each table and warming up with a hot cup of coffee.

“This is what it’s all about,” said LaShier with ladle in hand and a smile on his face.

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