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Festive Christmas at Grace Church in White Plains

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The spirit of Christmas was captured emphatically at Grace Church in White Plains, where a Latin jazz band performed a free holiday concert and 100 community members received a free holiday meal in the church’s soup kitchen.

“What’s unique about this church is it’s an interracial congregation with Spanish speaking services, it’s involved with music, cares for the poor and justice issues,” said Rev. Richard Kunz. “On the holidays we serve meals for those in need and the concert is for the community. It’s part of what we are as a congregation."

The church serves weekday lunches at its soup kitchen but holiday meals are coordinated by the Grace Church Community Center, a non-profit organization founded by the church but run separately by Ken and Allene Berman.

“We serve holiday meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with 50 volunteers for each holiday from all walks of life,” Ken Berman said.

Kate Emanuel, a volunteer from Rye said, “It’s hard to see whole families come in here to be served, but it gives me great satisfaction to help out. We do it very nicely and it’s become a tradition for us.”

Charlie and Virginia Urbanowski were served a ham dinner with soup and sparkling cider by the volunteers. “I’m separated from my family and trying to make the best of what Christmas has to offer,” Charlie Urbanowski said. “I’ve been out of work for two months and these are hard times, but it’s nice to be around the people in the church." Urbanowski said he lost a job as a home health aide and is looking for work.

Before the holiday lunch in the soup kitchen, trumpeter Hector Rodriguez led a ten piece Latin brass and percussion jazz band at the church’s first ever Christmas concert. Rodriguez introduced band members from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and led them through a medley of holiday tunes played with a Latin jazz flavor that had a few audience members dancing in the aisle.

“I got my exercise,” said Maria Lewis, an audience member from White Plains. “It’s a great idea to have a concert like this on the Lord’s Day.”

Grace Church started the holiday with four Eucharist services, two on Saturday and two Sunday, including bilingual services in Spanish and English.

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