Monday, December 23, 2002

Booster East cover 12-29
Jacksontown Community Breakfast
By Jeff Gill

Are you hungry?

If it’s the first Saturday of the month, and it’s after 11 am, you have only yourself to blame. Nobody who passed through the Jacksontown United Methodist Church for breakfast has room for much more than a cracker until evening.

For eleven years next month, the Community Breakfast in Jack-town (as most locals call it) has been an institution, drawing folk in every first Saturday from all around Licking and Perry Counties, and even from farther away.

Last month, the December breakfast dawned bright and cold, with nearly 50 cars in the church lot just after 7 am. The couple collecting $4 apiece at the bottom of the steps to the basement thought turnout was a bit light because of the temperature, but the room was warm and full to a casual visitor's eye.

Working along a buffet line of crock pots and friendly faces helping serve bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, fruit cups, and cups of coffee, a patron carries a now loaded tray in search of a seat in either the main area or one of two Sunday school rooms that serve as dining areas these Saturdays.

It’s hard not to find a familiar face for most visitors here, or at least a smiling one. As you sit down and dig in, conversation around you indicates that your fellow breakfasters are from Alexandria and Somerset, from Columbus and even Cincinnati. You can end up in conversations about installing culverts, calving season, teachers’ conferences, nursing shortages in OR’s, or comparing download times from internet services. One story going around is that a fellow with family in the area times his visits from Tennessee to coincide with the Jacksontown Community Breakfast.

None of this surprises Keith Cotterman, who has helped lead this program of his church since the beginning, along with his wife Dottie.
“We start a week before each first Saturday putting together everything we need,” says Keith. “We buy our meat from Al’s Meat Market in Newark, the eggs sometimes are donated locally, and everything else is brought in by church members.”

The idea began with a similar, smaller breakfast in Thornville, and when that program began to wind down, Keith went down to visit with Don Royer to see how they’d done it. That was January of 1992, and they began at Jacksontown United Methodist Church the next month. . .and haven’t stopped since.

At 5:30 am, winter or summer, light or dark, Keith and a few of what will end up being a 30 person crew unlock the church building, set out the crock pots, and start the coffee urns. 7:00 am is the opening, and there’s always a line waiting to get in when they start. By the 11:00 am wrap-up, the church will have served breakfast to 400 to 475 people.

“The church has used the proceeds over the years for a variety of ‘over and above’ projects,” says Pastor Bob Beyer. “We’ve made some building improvements, including increasing our handicap accessibility to the basement. Our administrative council will decide where the money from the January 4 breakfast will go, and they have allocated the December dollars to the new ‘Water’s Edge’ ministry in Buckeye Lake plus some seed money for a new church start in the district.”

Keith and Bob share a variety of causes and concerns the breakfast earnings have supported, including youth camp fees and for a Russian missionary who’s been in town to preach. The breakfast has also brought in at least ten families to the church over the last five years, they estimate.

“I have never had to recruit help,” says Keith. “People just show up and start working.”

Among the long-time regulars, he points out Bonnie Lovejoy as gravy maker, Bud Lovejoy for pancake flipping, Ruth Wilson on fruit cups, and Dick Beard with potatoes and sausage. This particular breakfast, a number of the youth group members have sacrificed sleeping in to help with their Santa hats as servers, part of their support of the youth programs with Water’s Edge.

The congregation, with a classic old wood frame building and graceful spire visible as you drive south on Rt. 13 into Jack-town, has two worship services on Sundays at 9:15 and 11 am. With around 150 in worship between the services, they have about 20% of their active membership directly involved in the community breakfast program.

“This is a real unifying experience for the congregation,” says Pastor Bob, “but we do it because we really like seeing all the happy faces together to start a day like today.”

They would love to break the 500 mark someday, but doubt that Jan. 4 will be the day, guessing that many Ohioans will be up late the night before. On the other hand, we agree that a good solid country breakfast will be just the thing however the Fiesta Bowl turns out.

The Jacksontown Community Breakfast is every first Saturday of the month at Jacksontown United Methodist Church from 7:00 to 11:00 am, just south of the intersection of US Rt 40 and State Rt 13. The next breakfast is Jan. 4, and the cost is $4 per person. Proceeds go to support the mission, outreach, and ministry programs of the congregation.

Hebron Crossroads 12-29
By Jeff Gill

Hebron Village trash pickup is on Monday, and the one after Christmas is always a sight to see!
The mounds of bags, black plastic or festive shredded gift sacks; the piles of boxes wedged tight against the winter winds; white plastic kitchen garbage liners bulging with the remnants of good cheer gone south. It can all “pile up” as a commentary against the excesses of the holiday season.
But every time I’m tempted to react too negatively against the commercial and disposable side of the Christmas season, I remember the refugee families I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with through the years in churches. From Cambodia or Laos, from Armenia or Somalia, one thing they all had in common: they loved the malls and the grocery stores.
Sure, they were a little scary, and yep, they usually couldn’t buy two things there even with some financial help (at first), but the sight of all those consumer goods, in great supply and vast selection. . .and without armed guards standing near the produce aisle, or government officials waiting to stamp your “permission to buy a radio” book! Over and over I’ve heard refugees say, “This really is a free country, isn’t it?”
And they know it isn’t “free” as in “not paying”, but free as in, if you have the money, you do what you choose with it. Looking at 47 varieties of salad dressing, where I see one more annoying decision I have to make, they see freedom and democracy even when they can’t afford to buy it. They know they’ll be back, and they want the Ranch Bacon Fat free, but all in good time.
So enjoy the excess as long as you appreciate what it means, which will probably make you a little less wasteful and a whole lot more thankful when it comes right down to it.

Speaking of which, with Christmas right behind us, it’s not too early to start reminding ourselves that the food pantries and aid programs often clean off the shelves to give families a boost through Christmas Day, and the winter will continue. If you’ve given generously to a local pantry or service group who see the needy each day, try to help ‘em out a bit each month right on through the year. Same goes for blood drives right after the holidays, which is as bad as the summer for keeping stocks up; check your local fire department or municipal office for a blood drive near you.

This is the big week for Buckeye fans, with not a few of our local folk leaving the Crossroads for the big trip west to Tempe. We hope the big screens in the hotels there have as good a picture of the living room TV’s in Hebron, as tickets are still sounding scarce (insert unnecessary hen’s teeth reference here). But there’s so much natural history and scenery to soak up in Arizona that I’m sure football fans won’t mind not getting into the stadium. Don’t forget the Spanish missions, the world-famous Desert Museum, the Lost Dutchman Mine, side trips to the Grand Canyon. . .
Somehow, I’m guessing that this isn’t helping. But have a great time everybody, OK? At least you won’t be scraping ice from your windshield.

Well, we’ll see you next in a new year; we’ve got restaurant openings, the “Mine + Nine” campaign, “Books & Coffee,” Statehood Day March 1, new library programs and wagon trains along the National Road, et cetera. 2003 looks like a fun and full year at the Hebron Crossroads! Come join us on down the road.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a local columnist; if you have news, info, or just “stuff” for the column, call 928-4066 or e-mail