Hot Food, Warm Smiles
Our Community Place, Volunteers Provide Thanksgiving Meal
Daily News-Record 11/29/19
When Dave Bodson came to Harrisonburg in 2011, the fi rst place he went was Our Community Place.
He stayed because of the family.
“They help you out when you need it,” he said.
For the last nine years, Bodson has been spending his Thanksgiving at the OCP’s annual Thanksgiving meal put together by volunteers and community members for locals who have nowhere else to go for the holiday.
An open room filled with tables and chairs was transformed into a space where more than 60 people from all backgrounds and setbacks could come together and share a meal, a laugh and conversation with each another.
Trays of turkey, rolls, green beans and a bowl of gravy made its way down each table until the once empty plates were overflowing with a hot meal.
“My favorite part is the pie,” Bodson said as he grabbed a piece of pecan pie from a server.
Having a place to go during the holidays is something Leons Kapongo strove for since coming to OCP.
Kapongo, a programming and volunteer coordinator at OCP, started his journey with the organization in 2017 when he had no other place to go.
“I came like anyone else here,” he said. “I find myself in a space that even with a master’s degree, I wasn’t accepted from where I came from.”
He found that acceptance at OCP where he could work with people and help them find a better life.
“OCP focuses on creating a space where people with diverse experiences can pause and hear themselves scream for help from within,” Kapongo said. “But it is OK, we will help you and walk you through it.”
Kapongo said when it comes to the holidays, no one should be spending it alone.
“When you are knocking on doors and no doors will open, this will be the place to go to,” he said. “There is no place like OCP. It is a home away from home where everyone that walks in those doors can take a breath without being judged. That is the spirit if OCP and that is why we open the doors.”
And the spirit of giving at OCP carries on with Sherri Sherman and her husband, George Sherman, who have been volunteering there for 14 years.
It started as a way for their daughter, McKenzie Sherman, to give back to the community, but it quickly became a part of their daily routine.
The Shermans, of Singers Glen, spent most of their volunteering duties Thursday running the kitchen and making sure everything went smoothly.
Sherri Sherman said, for the last few years, she has been acting as the “kitchen boss” after one of the directors wanted Thanksgiving off and she stepped up to the plate.
Since then she said she has always been welcomed back year after year to volunteer and work in the kitchen.
“I feel like this is the one place I can be at for Thanksgiving is here,” Sherri Sherman said, holding back tears. “I think if you look around, it speaks for itself that no matter where you come from, there is always a place to call home.