Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

A holiday dinner with a side of good news
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Dec 28, 2012, 15:23

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Cathryn Kyles was one of the members of Girl Scout Troop 585, who helped out at the second Feed a Friend dinner, serving up free holiday meals on Christmas eve.

Mike Dawson’s reason for hoping that this year’s Feed a Friend Christmas eve meal would attract more people than the 126 that attended last year’s inaugural free meal was simple.

“There’s more people that need it,” he said, watching volunteers and attendees to the meal, held at VFW Post 637, dine on turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and other traditional, holiday fare.

As a resident of Hopewell, Dawson has seen a growing need for help within the city he calls home. Several years into an economic recession, the number of Americans living in poverty and the number of people depending on food stamps are at record highs.

“I’m a big softie,” Dawson said. “I’ve got a soft spot for people who need help.”

Dawson formed the Cruisers Helping Abused and Neglected Children Everywhere, Inc., or C.H.A.N.C.E. charity, and the group organizes the event, which is funded through donations. Dawson said his main donors are the Randolph Market, Virginia Meat Market, Food Lion and various individuals. He also raffles off baskets donated by Anchor Realty.

In addition to the needy, Dawson invited the Hopewell Fire Department and Hopewell Police Department to provide holiday cheer for those on duty on Christmas eve.

Robert Williamson, with the Hopewell Fire Department, said that he and his coworkers had stopped by to deliver presents and brighten up their daily duties.

“It was excellent, and there was a whole lot of it,” Williamson said, reviewing the food.

He said he enjoyed talking to community members at the event and hearing from a man who had a house fire who they had been able to help.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Hopewell High School football players Edward Barlowe, Brandon Scott, Trent Scott, Jacob Roark and Tony Chambers served hot beverages to attendees on Monday.

“It’s nice to hear that part of it, that we helped someone,” Williamson said.

Gene Beale was at the Feed a Friend because of the effects of a fire just ver a week ago.

“The whole house went up,” he said. “We lost everything.”

He said that he appreciated having a place to take his family, including his three children, one two-year-old son and two twins who are three, for Christmas dinner.

“It’s really good and I’m thankful for it,” he said of the meal. “Thankful for them helping our family out.”

Dawson said the idea for the Feed a Friend meal came to him after he and his daughter, Mackenzie, adopted a family for Thanksgiving last year and found they liked the feeling it gave them.

“...She was kind of excited about it and she said she wanted to do two families at Christmas and I figured we’d do something a little bigger,” Dawson recalled. “It turned into this.”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Mike Dawson said he has found his calling in helping.

On Christmas eve, Dawson had a large number of volunteers helping him cook and serve food and drinks, including approximately 20 players from the Hopewell High School football team, local girl scout troops and individuals and families interested in helping.

Susan Karrmann and her family were there to check one item off her daughter’s list of Christmas wants: to feed the hungry.

“We’ve always wanted to, but it was just overwhelming,” Karrmann said, describing the family’s experience.

Dawson said that he thinks he’s found his “calling,” hosting the annual dinners. He said he also hopes that his daughter is learning from her experience helping him.

“I don’t want her to experience hardship,” he said. “That’s why I get up every day and go to work. But I want her to know that it’s out there and what things could happen...I don’t want her to feel it, but I want her to see it.”

He said that he thinks seeing those things at a young age will help her develop into someone who helps others for the rest of her life.

“It makes me feel good inside, to help people, just to see the look on their face” Mackenzie said while taking a break on Monday afternoon.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Sister and brother Mackenzie and Jacob Karrmann taught other volunteers dance steps during a lull in serving.

In addition to providing a meal and gifts for people who might otherwise face a bleak holiday, Dawson said he also hoped “Feed a Friend” would provide the community with something else that can be in short supply sometimes.

“You rarely hear anything good in the news,” Dawson explained. “It’s always somebody getting robbed, or people getting shot or somebody’s house catches on fire. There’s not enough good things that go noticed or get done. I just felt it was something good that the community could use. That’s why I invited all the police department and all the fire department and everybody else.” 

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