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Published: Sunday, 12/26/2010

Toledo church shares Christmas spirit at dinner for the needy

He was in central Toledo, and she was in Central America.

"That's what Jesus told us to do -- to give. I live in the neighborhood, and the need is here," said Mr. Geller, 66. "So I've been helping out here while she is helping orphanages in Nicaragua, delivering them food and praying for them."

The Jewish-raised New-York City native who has practiced law in Toledo for 40 years was one of more than a dozen volunteers at the seventh annual Free Christmas Feast at Thomas Temple Church of God in Christ at 2140 Ashland Ave.

The volunteers -- including a whole family -- served holiday dinners for more than 200 from noon to 2 p.m.

Paul Geller serves George Love at Thomas Temple Church of God. The free meal, the seventh annually, included baked turkey, baked ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and mustard and turnip greens. Paul Geller serves George Love at Thomas Temple Church of God. The free meal, the seventh annually, included baked turkey, baked ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and mustard and turnip greens.
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The menu featured baked turkey, baked ham, fried chicken, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mustard and turnip greens, yams, tossed salad, spaghetti, rolls, punch, and 10 deserts, including apple pie and carrot cake.

The annual Christmas Day event dates to 2004.

"My mother [The Rev. Susan Coleman] is the pastor and she said, 'God put it into my head to start giving free dinners on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and we have been doing it ever since," said Veranda Brooks, a 36-year-old event volunteer.

"I love helping people, and the need is there," she said.

"There are many needy and lonely people who otherwise wouldn't have a holiday meal. And that would make me feel bad because I am able to do something for them -- to bless people with a good meal and the positive spirit and to help them keep the positive outlook because the times are very hard for everybody," she said.

Ms. Brooks was cooking the meals and washing dishes.

A former Toledo Public Schools crossing guard, she's working toward her medical assistant degree at Stautzenberger College in Maumee.

Her daughter, Disha Brooks, 17, a senior at Scott High School, was also volunteering at the event, serving the meals alongside her boyfriend Shaun Atkins, 18.

"Giving is what it's all about," said Mr. Atkins, a junior.

"I am here to help give people a wonderful Christmas."

Pastor Coleman greeted guests at the door and said she was "just thankful to be able to make someone else happy during this holiday season."

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, or 419-724-6089.



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