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Taking care of our own: Church answers call for Coasties

012119dinnerForCoasties

Dawn Z. Gregory (right) piles noodles into a to-go box during a free spaghetti dinner for U.S. Coast Guard and federal employees in the Outreach Center at Forest Park Church, Saturday night. The church sponsored the free dinner to help families negatively affected by the current government shutdown. Gregory and several more members of the church volunteered to help serve the free meals.

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By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Planning dinner was something the families of local U.S. Coast Guard and furloughed civilian employees didn’t have to worry about Saturday, day 29 of the partial government shutdown. 

Forest Park Church held a free spaghetti dinner for Coast Guard families and federal employees in the church’s Outreach Center from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Church volunteers prepared nearly 40 pounds of spaghetti noodles, about 20 pounds of hamburger and sauce and 20 loaves of garlic bread for the feast. 

Jose Colon, a Coast Guardsman and Forest Park member, helped organize the free dinner to assist fellow Coasties who have been working without pay since Jan. 15. Civilian federal employees who have been furloughed from their jobs because of the shutdown were also welcomed.   

“I believe that is what the good Lord would want us to do,” Colon said, referring to the free dinner. “We have a large Coast Guard population at our church.” 

Colon said church volunteers were prepared to dish out up to 200 meals. The parking lot was filled with vehicles coming and going as families stopped by to receive their dinners in Styrofoam to-go boxes. Inside under the glow of bright lights, other families sat at tables chatting and enjoying their dinners and time together. 

“It’s very nice of them,” said one Coastie, expressing his appreciation for the dinner on the condition on anonymity.

Carrying several of the packed to-go boxes, the man was joined by his wife and five children. 

“It’s going to be pretty tight soon,” he said. 

Also on hand was Forest Park Pastor Scott Neal, who expressed pride in Elizabeth City’s outreach.

“I’m proud of our community,” he said, adding that it wasn’t just churches that were lending a hand, but also area businesess and other organizations. “I just love to see the community come together. It’s inspiring to watch it happen.”

Colon, who has made a career of the Coast Guard, spent much of his time outside in the parking lot greeting people as they arrived and asking them how they were doing. He said later in the evening he planned to deliver spaghetti meals to the Coast Guard crews standing duty at Base Elizabeth City. 

Before leaving for the base, Colon was standing near the road with two flashlights helping direct traffic into the parking lot. 

“I’m just thankful this Coast Guard City has joined us in our time of need,” he said. 

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