A Christmas miracle
I love a good Christmas movie. Yes, I know the plots are usually the same in all of them and they always seem to offer a happy ending. I think we could all use more happy endings! My favorite movies are the ones with a Christmas miracle. You know, the nearly-bankrupt, small-town company that makes heavy equipment, baked goods, or toys suddenly finds a buyer at the 11th hour, who is usually the person who came to town unwillingly, fell in love and then decided to stay. Of course all of the jobs are saved! Hurray! Snowflakes are flying at the end of the movie just as the credits begin to roll.
Christmas miracles aren’t just for the Hallmark Channel. We have a beautiful Christmas miracle every year right in our little town of Chambersburg. It is known as the Salvation Army Christmas Meal, which is actually a misnomer. Yes, it is held at the Salvation Army, who allows the use of their facilities, but the mastermind behind it all is Lynne Newman, who has been doing so for thirty-three years. Lynne becomes Mrs. Salvation Army from December 24-25 so that the Salvation Army staff can be off of work and celebrate the birth of Christ with their families as well as get some much-needed rest. (She actually works on this for more than two months!)
Volunteers, donations, service
Lynne and her family coordinate every detail of the day from recruiting volunteers, procuring donations for all of the food and even obtaining presents for everyone who enjoys the meal. This year they cooked 30 turkeys to provide approximately 250-300 hot meals for the individuals and families who came for the sit-down meal. Volunteers set the tables and chairs in the multi-purpose area which they transform into a festive dining room which includes a “station” of wrapped presents. The volunteers greet the guests, serve their meals, clear the tables, reset, and start the process over again. Everyone receives a wrapped gift before they leave. (Yes, the gifts are wrapped! Even managing that part of this process is an undertaking!) The room and the kitchen are cleaned and sanitized before Lynne and her crew head home.
Wait! There’s more!
And just like As Seen on TV, “Wait! There’s more!”…. Lynne also coordinates home delivery serving anywhere in Franklin County as well as Fulton County if she receives a referral that there is a need. This year her Christmas Meal drivers provided hot meals and presents to more than 400 people all across our community. Everyone in the household receives a hot meal (turkey, sides, and all the fixings, plus applesauce, dinner roll, and dessert!) as well as a wrapped gift. Many of the more than 400 are elderly and live alone so this was a special blessing for them, especially on such a cold day.
All are welcome for the sit-down meal and there is no real way to capture the reservations in advance. Somehow Lynne has figured out over the course of the last three decades how to accurately guesstimate and for me that is part of the Christmas miracle. She doesn’t turn anyone away. There are no need-based requirements, no proof of income needed. She offers a warm and loving place to enjoy a Christmas meal to anyone who wants to receive it.
The other part of this miracle is that this year Lynne’s family’s holiday overlapped with Christmas and yet they still served. Lynne and her family are Jewish and Hanukkah and Christmas overlapped again in 2022. Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the miracle that occurred during the rededication of the Holy Temple after the Jewish people reclaimed it from the Syrian-Greeks in the second century BCE. Simply put, there was only enough of the holy oil to last for one day, yet miraculously the oil lasted for eight days. Hanukkah coincides with the winter solstice, symbolizing bringing light to the darkest days.
When pancreatic cancer took my mother from our family shortly after Christmas 2011, our holiday rock was no longer there for our Christmas traditions. Those were “dark” days. On the advice of a Hospice grief counselor who said “Stay busy, Angie, and try to make new traditions,” I reached out when I saw Lynne’s post that had been shared on Facebook. I’m grateful that I did. There is something really special about seeing people’s joy in breaking bread together and the appreciation they show when receiving a hot holiday meal from a caring person in their own home when they would otherwise be alone and not have the traditional meal.
How to help
If you read the paragraph above and it resonates with you and a need to make new traditions in 2023, I highly recommend that you contact Lynne Newman. Let me warn you in advance that she will hook you and keep you coming back year after year! One of the ways that she does this is by having a personal phone conversation with every volunteer. She will want to know your interests, how you want to help, how much time you have to give, and then she will find a job for you and your family to match your interests.
If you have an hour, she will use you. If you can spare 3 or 4, she’ll plug you in. If you have never met Lynne in person, she is very small in stature to the point that she has even stood on a chair to address her cadre of volunteers to make sure those in the back could see and hear her. Small yet mighty indeed! Miraculous!
Serving her community
I had intentions of nominating Lynne for Woman of the Year for one of the Harrisburg news station award programs but the deadline was December 16th so sadly I missed that opportunity this year. Just like that, Christmas is over for another year; and she quietly makes sure she leaves the Salvation Army space exactly as she found it; and (she) goes on with life until late October the following year when she starts up her Christmas Miracle Machine for another season of love and light. I don’t think she and her family even get a formal thank you so I hope this column is enough to let them know that Lynne is our Woman of the Year every year when it comes to sharing light with others on December 25th in Chambersburg.
She truly serves those who come and break bread, those who are homebound, those who volunteer, and those who donate to this very special cause. Thank you, Lynne, for continuing this beautiful tradition and for sharing your time, your family, and your heart with our community year after year after year! This is a Christmas Miracle to be sure!
Angela Lynch, Fayetteville PA
A fundraiser, champion for education, nature lover, and traveler, Angie also enjoys writing about her observations in our local community.