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Christmas feasts again served free

December 07, 2000

Christmas feasts again served free



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Christmas with NickRestaurateur Nick Giannaris invites Washington County residents without holiday plans to his free Christmas Day feast at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel.

"We want everybody to come" to the 14th annual Christmas with Nick, Giannaris said Thursday.

"We encourage anyone who's lonely, hungry or in need to take advantage of the true spirit of Christmas," said Cheryl Walkley, executive director of the Community Action Council.

Turner Transportation and County Commuter buses will provide free rides to the dinner, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Giannaris' hotel on Dual Highway in Hagerstown.

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"There's a magical thing that happens out here on this day. It's just a day of caring, of sharing, of giving," said Ed Lough, volunteer coordinator.

Last year, nearly 300 event volunteers catered to the needs of the estimated 1,400 people who attended the feast, Lough said.

Volunteers also delivered meals to some 400 people who were unable to leave their homes.

Volunteers and hotel chefs this year will cook between 40 and 50 turkeys and hams, about 800 pounds of potatoes and massive vats of gravy and soup. They will prepare such trimmings as stuffing, vegetables, salads and desserts, Giannaris said.

Food manufacturers have donated items such as meat, bread and milk for the feast. Local businesses have also given food and some of the toys that the gathering's young guests receive after the meal, Giannaris said.

"I couldn't do this alone," he said. "It's not only Nick; there are so many people involved in this thing."

Lough, Walkley and George Turner, owner of Turner Transportation, are among the many volunteers who make the dinner a success each year, Giannaris said.

Volunteers "help us one year and they always come back," Turner said.

Reservations are requested but not required. They can be made by calling the Community Action Council weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 301-797-4161. On weekends and evenings, reservations can be made by calling Turner Transportation at 301-733-7788.

Volunteers can register by calling the Sheraton at 301-790-3010 or they can just show up on Christmas Day.

Toys can be donated by calling Dan DiVito at 301-714-0849 or 301-491-1611. If the toys are wrapped, please tell event organizers the age and gender for which the presents would be appropriate.

The look on children's faces when they open their gifts makes the effort that goes into holding the event worthwhile, Lough said.

"The sparkle in their eyes is worth their weight in gold," he said.

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