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Free food warms hearts on frigid day in Gary

Jeff Williams samples chili Bethel Temple's 'Feed Hungry' event 5th Avenue Broadway Gary Tuesday. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

Jeff Williams samples the chili at Bethel Temple's "Feed the Hungry" event at 5th Avenue and Broadway in Gary Tuesday. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: December 24, 2013 5:49PM

GARY — For the 19th year, members of Bethel Temple Church of God In Christ pitched a tent on the corner of 5th and Broadway and a sign outside the tent on Christmas Eve announcing free chili, hot dogs, Polishes and hot chocolate to all who stop by.

Members started serving food at 10 a.m. and continued until everything ran out. Last year, all the food was gone within 90 minutes.

With a sound system blasting Christmas music courtesy of Marvin Lyles of WGVE-88.7 FM in Gary, strangers and friends gathered inside the heated tent to escape the frigid cold. They lined up waiting to fill their plates, then gathered at tables to enjoy the food and atmosphere.

Bethel Temple’s elder Tommy Dolton of Gary coordinates the annual event with help from his employer, Aeromet Industries in Griffith, who provided the tent and portable heaters.

“My boss and production engineer Dennis Peck and his family did something extra this year. His wife suggested they create care bags for those in need so they purchased hats, gloves, throw blankets, socks and hand warmers for men, women and children. Plus children also received a gift of a toy,” Dolton said.

He added that coats for men, women and children were collected and given to those needing one. “The coats giveaway was fellow elder Terrance Harvey’s idea. We are getting a lot of people coming through and they are very appreciative of the food and everything,” Dolton said.

U.S. Army Pvt. Takesha Dockery of Merrillville is a member of Bethel Temple and came to volunteer.

“I heard about this event and felt it was perfect to help out. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. You hear and read stories about the homeless and people who cannot afford a meal, but to see first hand brings it to a different perspective. For some of these people, this could be their only meal today,” she said.

Naomi Cannon of Gary lives nearby at one of the senior citizens complexes. She said this is her second year visiting the tent.

“Last year I came over but I did not walk inside because I did not know what was going on. I came in today and I really enjoyed the chili, hot dog and this hot chocolate is very good,” she said.

“I think this is a wonderful thing the church is doing for the community.”

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