For more than two decades, one local family has made it their Christmas tradition to help others.
“We have always been grateful for our blessings and feel that we must give back to others and pass it on,” said Brooke Cary Whitis. “It's important to give your time and service to others in your community especially during the Christmas season.”
Whitis and her sister, Megan Cary, have been offering their hands and their hearts for more than 22 years every Christmas Eve. The sisters work the First United Methodist Church of Somerset’s community Christmas dinner yearly — and they wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“Dad took us and it really opened my eyes that there are a lot of people alone and with not much to eat in our town,” Cary said. “It started with Dad taking us and turned into something I don't miss."
Whitis and Cary and their father aren’t the only family who have made it their tradition to help those in need through the dinner.
Terry Reffett, reverend at First United Methodist Church, said the volunteers are who make the undertaking possible every year.
“The volunteer base has been outstanding,” Reffett said. “We couldn’t do it by ourselves.”
The dinner has handed out between 850 and 1,000 meals — either on-site at the church fellowship hall or through delivery — every year since the late 1980s at least.
Whitis said she and her sister began volunteering for the dinner around 1987 — when she was in high school and when Cary was in middle school.
“Dad was always into helping others during the holidays,” said Whitis, who is also known for her work with the American Cancer Society.
The sisters don’t attend United Methodist Church, but that doesn’t matter. All volunteers are welcome come Christmas Eve.
“When we get there each year, it's nice to see the smiling faces of so many people in our community who are there year after year, just like my family,” Whitis said.
And if you’re looking for a way to give back this Christmas season, then look no further today than First United Methodist Church. There is always plenty to do.
“In the past, we have delivered food to shut-ins, but we mainly work the line in getting the meals prepared before the dinner to be delivered or taken home by those attending,” Whitis said. “We get there early each year to take our spot in the line.”
Reffett had nothing but good things to say about those who spend time every Christmas Eve working the dinner, which is offered to anyone in need — and those simply wishing to share in a holiday meal with others.
“It’s just amazing the way the community supports this ministry,” Reffett said. “I just want to thank them for being able and willing to be a vessel to show God’s love to our community.”
Whitis plans on continuing her family’s Christmas Eve tradition for years to come — and she plans on passing that on to her young son, just as her father did for her and her sister.
"I am a new mother and I already know that when he is older I will take him to the community dinner to help,” Whitis said.
The dinner is at 12 p.m. today at the First United Methodist Church fellowship hall, located on South Central Avenue in Somerset. Volunteers are needed to serve the food at the fellowship hall, deliver meals and provide transportation to those who need a ride, and for other tasks.
For more information or to help out, call the church at 678-4042.