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Christmas with the vets

Alyssa Pressler
  • Local Feed the Vets York County has been feeding veterans on Christmas Day for four years.
  • This year, the organization had 147 reservations for the Christmas dinner.
  • Veterans enjoy warm food served by volunteers and the company of other veterans.

Four years ago, CJ Hoffman and her daughter made Christmas dinners at her home and hand-delivered them to local veterans in need.

Since then, she has founded the Local Feed the Vets York County organization, which hosts charitable events and services for local veterans throughout the year. Each year the Christmas dinner has grown bigger, and it has moved from Dallastown to Reliance Fire Co. on West Market Street in West York to serve more people in need.

CJ Hoffman, center, organizer of the Local Feed the Vets York County annual dinner, helps Vietnam veteran Richard Kline, of West Manchester Township, pick a dessert, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Hoffman's husband, a veteran who served in the Vietnam War, died on a Christmas Eve. Since then, she has been involved with vets and wanted to be sure no one was alone on Christmas.

"I like to hang out, to talk to (the veterans)," Hoffman said. "Somebody needs to take Christmas Day and treat them."

There were 147 local veterans who RSVP'd to Hoffman's Christmas dinner this year. They attended with their families and were served by volunteers who made sure the vets didn't need to lift a finger.

David Dunlap, a volunteer with Local Feed the Vets York County, dressed up as Santa Claus for the children in attendance. He said a number of organizations and people donate to make the Christmas dinner happen each year.

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"Everyone gives a little, and it all gets done," Dunlap said between posing for photos with volunteers, veterans and kids.

Firefighters from Reliance Fire Co. and others were there to help serve food and make sure things ran smoothly. Members from Beholder's Motorcycle Club attended to help, but they also brought wrapped Christmas presents and stuffed animals that were left over from their annual toy drive as well as a number of donated hats, scarves and blankets.

The best part about the Christmas dinner for the veterans is coming together and meeting new people in their community, they said.

Richard Kline, a West Manchester Township Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, said he enjoyed getting to know the servers and other people he wouldn't normally meet.

Volunteers Cheryl Floyd, left, of Red Lion, and Michelle Decker, of York, serve up plates of ham, chicken, mashed potatoes and more at the Local Feed the Vets York County annual event at Reliance Fire Co. in West York, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

"We all do things differently," Kline said. "It's nice to talk to people and find out what those differences are."

Charlie Gusler and his wife, Sharon, attended the dinner last year and had such a great time they decided to come back again this Christmas.

"Everyone is so friendly and courteous; they make you feel welcome," Charlie Gusler said. The Springettsbury Township resident, who served during Vietnam, retired from the Air Force in 1989. He enjoys events such as the Christmas dinner because he can get together with other veterans.

Volunteer John Myers of Dover serves dinner to World War II veteran John Kunkle and his wife, Thelma, of York, during the Local Feed the Vets York County annual event at Reliance Fire Co. in West York, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

"They know what you're going through," he said.

Sharon Gusler said she also enjoys the community aspect of dinners such as the Local Feed the Vets York County's event.

"People that don't know you come up and talk about their experiences," she said.