PARKERSBURG - The giving spirit went out into the community on Tuesday as volunteers gave their time to others during the annual First Presbyterian Church Christmas Day dinner.
"It wouldn't be Christmas if I wasn't here," said Jodi Kanalz of Parkersburg. "My husband David and I have been part of this dinner every year; this is our 22nd year and it won't be our last."
This year's event served about 500 meals in the first half hour with an expected 600 or more total to be served in the two hours, said the Rev. Mike Seely with First Presbyterian.
Volunteers Erin Deitzler, left, of Parkersburg, and Scott Morrison, of Belleville, serve meals to go in the gym of First Presbyterian Church on Juliana Street on Tuesday during the annual Christmas Day dinner. (Photos by Jolene Craig)
"Things went really well," he said. "The volunteers make this all possible, which is great."
Good friends Brooks Martin of Ellicott City, Md., and Tim Collins, of Parkersburg, have been working in the kitchen of the church during the Christmas Day dinner for more than a decade.
"I'm originally from Parkersburg and come home for Christmas, but it wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't come to the First Presbyterian Church and help out," Martin said.
Collins added that he volunteers washing dishes because he wants to be useful during the holiday.
"Nobody wants to be stuck in a house on Christmas, so we come here and give," Collins said.
For the first year the Garst family of Parkersburg - Jodi, Mike and son Nick decided to volunteer at the dinner.
"I decided that we needed to do something and volunteer," said Nick Garst.
"This dinner is such a good cause and it's a little overwhelming to see the people here," said Jodi Garst. "It makes you appreciate what you have."
Church volunteers began planning the dinner in October and got help from local businesses and individuals, which donated food.
"It used to be that the food was donated by church members and over the years businesses and people have gotten involved to the point where we don't have to do anything with the food but warm it and hand it out," Kanalz said.
There were also communal Christmas Day dinners at Tri-City Baptist Church on Grandview Street in south Parkersburg and Coolville United Methodist Church. A Christmas Day breakfast was also served Tuesday at First Evangelical Methodist Church on Gihon Road in south Parkersburg.
Pastor Joe Ward, with Tri-City Baptist Church, said the volunteers prepared and served about 125 meals this year, which was more than last year.
"The number of meals we serve has gone up and down in the past five or six years, but we wanted to make sure that everyone in south Parkersburg had a hot meal this Christmas and I hope we reached that goal," Ward said.
About half of the meals were eaten at the church while the rest were delivered or taken to homes, he said.