Payton Hedrick serves up turkey dinners at the Salvation Army

Chef Payton Hedrick serves a turkey dinner to Kaylin Skinner at the Salvation Army on Wednesday.

CUMBERLAND, Md. — A local chef was joined by family and friends to offer up a Thanksgiving meal Wednesday for 50 children at the Salvation Army.

Payton Hedrick led a team that prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for children in grades ranging from kindergarten to middle school.

Hedrick said his family was looking for a way to give back over the holidays, so they contacted the local organization at 701 E. First Street.

“This is the fourth charity meal I’ve done and it’s always great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Hedrick said. “I just enjoy the chance to brighten their day.”

Hedrick, 26, is a graduate of Allegany High School. He then enrolled in the culinary program at Allegany College of Maryland and has spent time working at farms and restaurants in Alabama and Georgia.

“Chefs and cooks like to nurture people ... whoever they’re serving and this is no different,” he said. “It’s very gratifying.”

Hedrick currently works at Working H Meats and Market in Friendsville. “I couldn’t be just a cook,” he said. “I’ve done fine dining and I’ve worked in tiny places where two people run the whole operation. I like to work in every corner of the industry and every part of the food chain.”

Among the volunteers helping Hedrick were Danny Edwards of Hyndman, Pennsylvania, and his father, Jeff Hedrick.

“Payton has always been an empathetic kid,” said Jeff Hedrick. “That’s just him. He wants to help people and we decided to do this with the Salvation Army this year.”

Jeff Hedrick said the event featured more than just the meal.

“There are 50 kids in this program and we wanted to make sure they all got something,” he said. “We are giving them winter gloves, hats, socks and hoodies for every kid as well as gift cards from local restaurants. We are having a Chromebook from Smart Choice Computers we’ll give away in a drawing.

“We also have many cash donations from people that have helped cover the cost. The holidays is a time to be thankful and to give back. We are thankful for every person who helped make this happen.”

The event was made possible by the Salvation Army Red Shield Club. Among the staff helping on Wednesday day was Katie Lick, program manager; Capt. Ronnette Smith and Vicky Leasure, program coordinator.

“A lot of these kids might not get an actual Thanksgiving meal,” said Leasure. “That is just how it is. So it’s nice to give them a hot nice meal that they can enjoy with their friends.”

“We help kids achieve their potential,” said Smith. “It creates a sense of family for the kids. They have each other to rely on and I love watching my staff working with them and see the joy they get. It’s awesome.”

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter.

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Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter @greglarryctn.