Parish House works to make holidays better for those in need

The Inter-Mountain photo by Sarah Goodrich The Upshur Parish House will be offering meal packages to those in need through Dec. 21, and a Christmas dinner is scheduled at Chapel Hill.

Editor’s note: The Inter-Mountain’s annual Comfort and Joy series will continue in each edition leading up to Christmas.

BUCKHANNON — Each year, a small white house opens its door to provide those in need a warm space, food supplies and the opportunity to make the holiday season memorable.

Along College Avenue across from West Virginia Wesleyan College sits The Upshur Parish House, which was purchased by the United Methodist Churches of Upshur Parish in 1991.

In conjunction with the Parish House is Crosslines Inc., an ecumenical ministry that provides information and referral services through cooperation with other social service agencies, such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

As many as 100 families are served each week, and that number increases significantly during the colder months and holiday season. The Parish House becomes extra busy with volunteers scattering to try to bring joy into someone’s life.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Parish House offers meal packages for those who stop by. In a grocery bag, clients will find all the ingredients to prepare a holiday meal, including ham, potatoes, canned goods, sides and a dessert.

“Last year, we did just over 700 of these meal packets,” said Alicia Rapking, who has been director of the Parish House for about seven years. “So that feeds … somewhere around 3,000 people.”

No sign-up is required to receive the bag of good, however, packages are prorated based on the size of each family.

Christmas-meal package distribution began this week and will continue until Dec.21 at The Parish House.

Another way the organization spreads Christmas cheer is by providing a Christmas dinner for clients at Chapel Hill.

“It’s a fancy sit-down dinner,” Rapking said, adding volunteers try to make the dinner “as festive as possible” with a variety of homemade desserts and side dishes.

Take-out and delivery services are available to those in need.

The dinner is not only for low-income folks, but also available for those who don’t want to spend the holiday alone.

“That’s a hard time to be alone,” she said. “We get lots of folks who enjoy socializing with people and coming together with the beauty of the season, and being able to eat good food.”

Along with the many duties of The Parish House comes the need for dozens of volunteers. Rapking said the organization is lucky to have many people take on a variety of volunteer efforts.

One of those volunteers is Dave Rowan, who has been volunteering at the Parish House since 2004.

“Before I (started) volunteering, I used to go up there (The Parish House) and get help and food, and I didn’t have anything to do, so that’s when I decided to start volunteering,” Rowan said.

He said The Parish House offers those in a need a nice meal for Christmas each year, as well as a way to relieve their worries about money or holiday dinner plans.

Donations always are welcome, and this time of year, the organization can use plastic bags, canned corn, sweet potatoes and cake frosting.

The Upshur Parish House is open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.