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Clear Spring grocers feed a multitude

December 15, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

CLEAR SPRING - Last Christmas season wasn't the best for Elsie Whitmore, who said her husband was ill and she was feeling down.

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But Whitmore, of Clear Spring, said her spirits lifted when someone knocked on her door a week or two before Christmas.

Volunteers from area churches had brought the Whitmores a turkey dinner compliments of the Ernst family of Clear Spring.

For the past seven years, Greg and Paula Ernst, the owners of Ernst's Market in Clear Spring, have hosted a free holiday dinner for the public at the Mount Calvary Church of God on U.S. 40 a week or two before Christmas.

This year Whitmore attended the dinner with family members on Wednesday evening.

"It was very nice that they thought of me last year," said Whitmore.

She said she enjoys coming to the dinner to socialize with people from her community she might not see on a regular basis.

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For about two hours each year, more than 65 volunteers serve residents a holiday dinner of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, vegetables, assorted desserts, coffee and tea.

Meals also are distributed to those who are ill or otherwise unable to make it to the church.

Most of the meal is prepared in advance by George Rowe, 36, manager of Ernst's Market.

Rowe said it takes him about two days to prepare the meal. This year he cooked around 18 turkeys weighing 25 pounds each, 15 pounds of pork and 500 servings of stuffing to feed the approximately 400 residents at the church and 150 shut-ins.

"It's been our largest gathering so far," he said.

Rowe said the Ernsts don't hold the free meal to get recognition.

"It's our way of giving back to the community," Rowe said.

He said he knows that the holidays can be a lonely time for some people and hopes that the dinner can spread some cheer.

Paula Ernst spent Wednesday evening setting and cleaning up tables for the dinner.

"I help out wherever I'm needed," she said.

Ernst said her family has been blessed and wants to share the good will she feels.

"It's fun to help everyone out and bring them food to eat, said eighth-grader Ben Sigler, 13, of Hagerstown.

Volunteers served the food family style and the tables were adorned with small holiday centerpieces. Crocheted snowflakes dangled from the ceiling and added to the festive atmosphere.

Preston and Dorothy Shupp of Clear Spring try to make it every year to the Ernst's holiday dinner.

"The food is good and we like to see everyone we know," said Dorothy Shupp.

Preston Shupp said he has known the Ernsts for years and appreciates the family's good nature.

"They are very generous people," he said.

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