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Local fraternity warms hearts and body with annual meal

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By Johnathan Ryan

Seeing smiles on people's faces after they receive a free lunch is like receiving a Christmas gift to the brothers of Omega Psi Phi.

Since 1973, brothers of the national service fraternity have reserved a day each Christmas season to serve lunch to the community - especially seniors and public workers.

That tradition continued Friday when the local chapter served a hot lunch at the A.R. Rucker Middle School cafeteria.

Visitors enjoyed turkey and dressing, rice and gravy, green beans, corn, yams, cranberry sauce and rolls. Homemade desserts were plentiful.

"It's wonderful to see the expression on people's faces," said Johnny Dewese, who leads the local chapter. "It's like receiving a Christmas gift."

The lunch is always free.

The brothers do a raffle during the lunch to offset the cost, Dewese said. This year's prize was a television set, donated by Wal-Mart.

By noon on a chilly and cloudy Friday, quite a few people were filing into the warm cafeteria. A good many county and Lancaster city government workers were in the crowd.

"We think of the seniors, especially those in homes, and our government workers throughout Lancaster County," said fraternity

member Artis Baskin, adding that members also delivered lunches for those who couldn't make it to the school.

"It's just a way of saying thank you," Baskin said.

Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw said it warms his heart that the fraternity shows its appreciation for government workers with the lunch.

"It's a nice way to show their appreciation for what we do," he said.

County Councilman Fred Thomas, an officer in the local chapter, helped serve up food. Being in the fraternity is a lot work, but "the happiness you get back from helping others is worth it," Thomas said.

The local fraternity chapter focuses on providing mentoring and scholarships to youngsters in the community, Thomas said. There are also blood drives and voter registration drives.

Attendee Clara Steele appreciates what the fraternity does.

"They didn't have to get up this early to start cooking," Steele said. "There is a lot of love in their hearts for the community."

Ned and Irene Rowell attended the lunch for the first time with friends. They learned about it in The Lancaster News and decided to stop by and enjoy the fellowship.

"We'll be back next year," Ned Rowell said, smiling while enjoying lunch.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com