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Lebanese Food Festival is a labor of love for longtime members of Glen Allen church

GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- Traveling through the woods of life, you may not find a family tree with more branches. The members of St. Anthony’s Maronite Catholic Church are bound by tradition and love for a place they call their spiritual home. The church in Glen Allen is made up of members who are proud of their Lebanese heritage.

“It's important to us because it's part of our heart,” Cathy Shibley George said. “We can’t leave.”

Lifelong church members like Sandra Joseph Brown said the building was more than just bricks, mortar, and stained glass.

“This is the foundation. This is where it all started. It's our home. It's our home,” Sandra said. “Everything we do we do with love.”

But this place of worship feeds more than just the soul. Every spring, members prep and stock up on all things Lebanese. From spinach pie to shish kebab, the Lebanese Food Festival is a massive operation where everyone pitches in.

"It's like an adrenaline rush. We’re having company. We’re having company,” Sandra said.

“Enormous. Enormous. The whole parish gets involved,” Theresa Shibley added.

“It’s a lot of work. I don’t know how else to tell you,” Gloria Shulleeta Nadder said.

“We literally make it with these hands,” Sandra added. “Then the week of the festival we’re here from sun up to well into the night.”

Sandra denies she’s the general, but when you welcome close to 40,000 visitors, you need strong leaders.

“By working together. By communicating. Fellowship. Praying. Eating. Dancing. Its all part of our church,” Sandra said.

A 35-year-old affair where everyone is welcome to taste the Middle East.

“We will cook. We will make dough all day long,” Gloria said.

“We’ve been so fortunate that through our festival and parents and grandparents we have a beautiful and vibrant community. That’s the church,” Sandra said.

“We love it. We’re proud of it,” Regina Shaar Loehr said . “It's family. It's community. It's home.”

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