Frederick churches, nonprofits team up to host free Thanksgiving dinner

Nov. 22—With Thanksgiving right around the corner, churches and nonprofits in Frederick teamed up to host a free dinner Saturday evening for the less fortunate.

Overall, the participating organizations — which included five churches, four nonprofits and Frederick Health — served over 250 meals and provided free coats, coronavirus vaccines and flu shots to families, said the Rev. Paul Foss, a pastor at Mount Airy's Damascus Road Community Church.

His daughter, Brittany Boujai, was among dozens of volunteers who made the night possible.

"The purpose or the intent behind the event was just to show what the church of Frederick really stands for, because so often, the church is sort of shouting what they stand against," Boujai said. "We wanted an event to really welcome people who felt under-valued or unseen or felt like they needed those needs met."

Asbury United Methodist Church in Frederick has hosted a similar event for a number of years, Foss said, but chose to cancel it this year and last due to safety concerns with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As Damascus Road's youth ministry searched for a service project that would allow 70 middle schoolers to participate, Foss reached out to Asbury United to see what it thought about the church hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Leaders at Asbury United quickly supported the idea, Foss said, and church volunteers even prepared 18 turkeys for the event.

Foss then got a hold of Strong Tower Christian Church, a non-denominational center of worship located in Patrick Street Center, which agreed to host the dinner.

Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Adamstown and Redeemer Lutheran Church in Damascus also helped organize the event, as did CrossRoads Freedom Center — a substance use treatment facility in Ijamsville — I Believe in Me Inc. — a youth empowerment nonprofit in Frederick — and Waterboyz for Jesus, a men's ministry run by Foss. Local nonprofit Love for Lochlin provided free flu shots and the county hospital system offered coronavirus vaccines and booster shots.

By the time Saturday came around, the participating organizations had collected some 40 pumpkin pies, too many spray cans of whipped cream to count and helpings of mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, gravy and deviled eggs, Foss said. When fewer people than expected stopped by Strong Tower for a meal, volunteers packaged up the leftovers and delivered them to sober living homes, elder care facilities and seniors living in the community.

Volunteers also dropped off 30 turkeys to families living in a trailer park community in Mount Airy, Foss said.

"We might be part of the turkey shortage," he said with a chuckle. "We used 48 of them."

Roger Record, youth pastor and missions director at Damascus Road Community Church, led the weekend's retreat for the middle schoolers.

When he told the children about all the fun activities they'd be participating in that weekend — a trip to Urban Air Adventure Park, for one — they were excited, Record recalled. But when he told them about how they'd be serving Thanksgiving dinner to families in their community, he said, they cheered.

Though he doesn't often get misty, their exuberance for helping others left him a bit choked up.

"The Frederick community has so many needs, and if we all really dove in and addressed it, it would all go away. It really would," he said. "So if we can teach students to think outside themselves and really want to help and serve . . . it's a beautiful thing."

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier