DOBSON — As Scrooge was taught his business was his fellow man, so Christians traditionally seek ways to demonstrate we all have worth. Tradition holds Paul did some of his best work in Rome when an inmate.
Blackwater United Methodist Church and Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson completed the ninth year of serving inmates a home-cooked meal on Christmas Eve Monday. Atkinson said things just seemed to fall in place for the project, one volunteer for instance, has the necessary nutritional credentials to allow her to supervise the church’s cooking of the meal.
“Right from the beginning it all fell together and we’ve done it every Christmas Eve since,” said Atkinson. “The inmates are really on their best behavior for this. They appreciate getting these meals.” He explained inmates are also given the opportunity to speak and pray with Blackwater Pastor Ted Turman.
The effort is paid through the proceeds from the church’s regular community meals, which began as a way to pay for their fellowship hall. He said the meal is a church-wide effort with members helping in all facets from cooking and cleaning to serving the meals.
“We have a community supper the first Sunday of every month and we set aside one meal to pay for the Christmas Eve meal,” said Atkinson.” We raised $287 this year to feed 101 inmates and the total bill was $287.40.”
Atkinson said he has seen some remarkable things happen as a result of the group reaching out. He recalled how one year, before he was sheriff, an inmate called Turman over and repented over breaking into his church. Atkinson had been the officer who charged the man with the breaking in.
This year the menu was baked ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, a roll, soda and a homemade dessert of cake or a brownie. The church routinely prepares more than 100 meals for inmates.
Atkinson and his family are members of the church. It was Turman’s wife, Cathy, who came up with the idea of serving lunch at the jail years ago. The meal is prepared at the church, then delivered to the jail where church members fill the trays.
The experiences of Jayme Key and Susanna Hull are representative of many who participate in the effort. Hull said the early morning of cooking followed her being baptised on Sunday. It was her first year participating with the inmate meal.
“This is a wonderful chance for us to get in the holiday spirit a bit,” said Hull. The past week was also the first time for Hull to go caroling with the church. She said she enjoyed singing for the children at The Shepherd’s House. Hull explained the carolers had only four songs ready to sing but would be up singing for a half hour because the children enjoyed caroling so much.
Key said he had been involved with the inmate meal last year. He became interested in serving others because his family was moving in so many different directions each Christmas. He said he would go home for the holiday and his family was so busy he sometimes wound up being alone.
“We started at 9 a.m. this morning and cooked our hearts out,” said Hull. “Hopefully they (the inmates) will try to know he (Christ) is wherever they are when they get out. It’s a matter of continuing on with faith.”
The two said taking time to help others was a welcome rest from the mayhem of holiday shopping. They said it helps them focus on what is important and keep things in perspective.
“Really, people should keep the Christmas spirit all year long, not just one day,” added Hull. “I hope this is something I can pass along to my son, Shane. People are valued and sometimes they need a little help.”
Down one cell block hallway a spirited version of “Come All Ye Faithful” could be heard being whistled.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.