CARE ministry feeds 1,500 on Christmas at Beaver Falls High School
There were 34 people milling in front of Beaver Falls High School in the Christmas morning chill, half of them children. The number would double by 10:30 a.m.,and double again before the doors opened a half-hour later.
Eventually, an estimated 1,500 people would come. None would be turned away.
For the 19th consecutive year, Christian Assembly Reaching Everyone — or “CARE,” a Beaver Falls Pentecostal ministry — joined with 60 churches of all denominations to serve a mountain of hams and turkeys, candied yams and peppermint ice cream.
“We never could've imagined it would grow this big,” said Rebecca Ficca Salopek, 61, CARE's ringleader on Christmas morning and a caseworker at the Beaver County Housing Authority the rest of the year.
“Back then, serving people on Christmas Day was considered a pretty foreign idea. We had 50 people on that first day, and it's exploded ever since. Our motto is ‘From the people and for the people' because we do this locally for local people. We tell everyone: ‘Don't be alone or hungry this year. Spend Christmas with us.' ”
CARE never asks for identification or proof of income. Volunteers pour coffee for the homeless who sit next to lonely widows and businessmen. One of them walked up to Salopek and gave her $2,000 to keep the program going, she said, but most donate nothing because they can't.
“If you make $50 or $50,000, that means nothing to us,” Salopek said. “Everyone is welcome.”
Many of the 260 volunteers bandied together by CARE are people who once came out of the cold to have a hot meal on Christmas. When they became employed or sorted out their lives, they returned to give back to others. The name tags identify none of the local politicians and civic leaders who toil anonymously, taking out trash or slicing pies alongside everyone else.
Some of them kneel and pray with the poor for a better 2013, but others don't. No pressure.
Christian Assembly Church nearby stakes $500 in seed money annually, but the rest of the estimated $20,000 in food and toys for the kids comes from merchants and the Marine Corps' “Toys for Tots” program.
Zymon Campbell, 6, said he wanted a Lego set so that he could “build a ship.” Arajha Young, 6, asked for a Barbie. Da'Shean Anderson, 7, said he wanted a football. Tiereney Tucker, 9, an iPod. Shawnta Haskins, 6, a list of high-tech gadgets only a kid could understand. And Brandon Coles, 8, an X-Box game console.
“Santa still owes me that,” said Brandon, a Beaver Falls Elementary third-grader. “I asked for it last year.”
CARE couldn't promise that Brandon would get his gaming gizmo, but volunteers make sure every child leaves with a present. All leftover meals and gifts go to shelters for abused women and the homeless, as well as nursing homes.
CARE doesn't stop helping after Christmas. The volunteers return at Easter to reach out to the poor in Beaver County's housing projects. On Thanksgiving, they make dinner for senior citizens.
“We just thank God for allowing us the great privilege of doing this,” Salopek said. “We give away everything, so every year we're like Jesus. We step out of the boat and into the water.
“Sometimes that wears on me. I can't sleep, and I worry about how we're going to do it next year. And every year God calls my bluff. He chuckles when I can't sleep, and he gives us everything we need.”
Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Court overturns Beaver County house’s tax sale over $6.30 bill
- Motorists should expect delays on Beaver Valley Expressway Friday
- Midland police take 22 children on Christmas shopping spree