Church has first annual holiday meal

November 24, 2000

Church has first annual holiday meal

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

Stephen Dellinger had a turkey in the freezer at home, but decided it could wait until next week.

He and his son attended what organizers hope will become an annual Thanksgiving Day dinner at Grace United Methodist Church.


Approximately 100 people attended the first Thanksgiving dinner at the church at the corner of Church and Winter streets, said Pastor Robert Barton.

On Wednesday evening, the church hosted a West End ecumenical service, Barton said. The other participating congregations were First Baptist, St. Mark's Lutheran, St. Matthew's United Methodist, Salvation Army, Washington Square United Methodist and West End Baptist.

The Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission fed approximately 175 people following a Thanksgiving Day service at 11:30 a.m., said Executive Director Sonny Shank.


On Thursday afternoon Dellinger and his son filled up on turkey and the trimmings at Grace United after Julius, 12, found out about the dinner from attending an after-school program at the church.

Such gatherings can help people during the holiday season, which can be a depressing time for many people, said Stephen Dellinger, 44, who recently moved back to Hagerstown from York, Pa.

Dellinger normally attends a big family dinner in York. "I miss my family back home," he said.

He and Julius instead stayed in Hagerstown, enabling them to enjoy the local fellowship and allowing Julius to have a second helping of turkey later in the day with his mother.

"It feels good to know there are people that care that don't even know you," Dellinger said.

Patsy Sterling, 71, said she would have been alone at her home in Potomac Towers if not for the church dinner.

She was enjoying the company of others, including fellow parishioners Rosemary Huff and Huff's son-in-law, Tim Calhoun, 41.

Calhoun said many church members came out to support the dinner and help prepare the festivities.

Calhoun helped decorate and set up the stage while Jim Staley, 35, gave up sleeping in on a holiday to come in at 8 a.m. and peel potatoes.

"If I can fit it in my schedule, I try to help. It's the right thing to do," Staley said.

The idea for the church dinner arose from a conversation among four couples last summer at the home of Tracy and Randy Snodderly. The other couples were Colista and Dan Shoemaker, Beth and Ron Clipp, and George and Becky Stone.

"(George Stone) looked at us and said, 'When are we going to do something meaningful with our families on Thanksgiving?'" said Tracy Snodderly, 31.

"My family and I have always wanted to do (the church dinner)," explained Stone, who attends Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.

The couples didn't only propose the idea to Barton, they pitched in.

After working his night shift Ron Clipp came to the church Wednesday morning and began cooking eight turkeys, making sweet potatoes and slicing bread for stuffing.

He worked through the day, even when the electricity went out for more than an hour.

"I was carving turkeys by candlelight," said Clipp, 46. The gas stoves kept the rest of the meal cooking.

"It was all worth it. Just to see the people from the neighborhood who possibly could not have gotten a meal today," Clipp said.

Barton said the meal wasn't only for those who had no place to go. It was also for families who had plenty of places to go but chose to share in the fellowship at the church.

Organizers said they hope next year to expand the dinner to include delivery to homebound residents in the West End.

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