Shepherd’s Feast: celebrating Christmas with community

Published 8:41 pm Friday, December 18, 2015


By Mark Schmerling



Few enjoy spending Christmas alone. In Polk County, there’s no need to do so.


Individuals and families are invited join in the Shepherd’s Feast, a free Christmas meal for the community, held at the Polk County Middle School cafeteria from 1 to 4 p.m. Christmas Day, made possible by volunteers and by generous donors. The school is located at 321 Wolverine Trail, off Hwy. 108 between Columbus and Mill Spring.


The tables are set with white tablecloths, Christmas china, candles and greenery. Each table has a server who brings out the feast family-style as guests are seated. Gifts are provided for children, and Gay and Phil Johnson of Green Creek play live music for everyone.


Tryon’s Ross Fox, founder and organizer of the special feast now in its eighth year, noted that he once found himself alone on Christmas. “Being by myself on any day of the year is okay, but Christmas is special,” he said.


Fox made a particular Christmas more special by volunteering with Bounty of Bethlehem, a similar event, in Hendersonville.


“I went up there, and I served,” he recalled. “One of the guests was homeless. Another lady had a mink stole. It was a mixture of different types of people. That’s what impressed me.”


Another server there told Fox that had it not been for that event, she would have been alone for Christmas.


“I thought that was meaningful,” Fox remembered. He thought, “‘Gosh, that’s what I’m here for.’ I decided then and there that we could use something like this in Polk County.”


Fox notes that some individuals bypass the Shepherd’s Feast, feeling that it’s “for the needy, for charity.” He explained that those folks are missing the point. Guests are generally not needy, though all individuals and families are invited.


“It’s for people who want to share their Christmas with other people. Anyone can join to eat or volunteer,” Fox emphasized, adding, “Our doors are open to most anyone who wants to volunteer. In volunteering, there’s a sense of joy. We’re all-inclusive.”


Fox noted that volunteering for the event is a “feel-good experience.”

He said, “I was watching people leave the dinner last year. The volunteers all had smiles on their faces.”


David Scherping, in charge of the kitchen, loves volunteers, Fox said.


Fox said that Scherping told him, “’I don’t say no to a volunteer. We can always find something for them to do.’”


Shepherd’s Feast is made possible by volunteers and by donations. Donations of food come from the Tryon IGA, Food Lion (Columbus), French Broad River Co-Op (Asheville), the Brick Pizzeria & Café (Columbus), Flat Rock Village Bakery, Wildflour Bakery (Saluda), the Meeting Place (Columbus), McFarlan Bake Shop (Hendersonville) and Mountain View BBQ (Columbus). Holy Cross Episcopal Church (Tryon) provides table settings, and the Town of Tryon provides the sound system. The Johnsons provide an hour of music. Java Up provides coffee.


In addition to feeding those at the middle school, the Shepherd’s Feast provides meals to the Polk County Jail and to shut-ins. In total, some 400 meals are served.


Carlann Scherping noted that guests “pass the turkey and the rolls; some bow their heads to give thanks; and best of all, they have not had to spend Christmas Day alone.”


She added that volunteers begin preparing the feast on Dec. 23, insuring that everything will be ready to cook and serve on Christmas Day.


Space to eat and celebrate is always available, especially as most guests stay for some length of time, leaving spaces open when they depart.


“We don’t kick anyone out,” Fox emphasized. “If they’re there at quarter to four, bless their hearts, we’ll serve them.”

FEATURE p4 RossFox


# # #