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Sharing the bounty

November 29, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

As a child, Thanksgiving was one of Wendy Hughes' favorite holidays.

Society has glamorized the holiday, making it more difficult for people without big families to enjoy, said Hughes, 40, of Hagerstown.

"A lot of times it makes me feel alone in the world," she said.

Besides her son, the only family Hughes has is her mother in Ohio. So she and her son, Josh, chose to go to Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown's West End for Thanksgiving dinner.

Twenty-five volunteers served Thanksgiving Day dinner to approximately 160 local residents, shut-ins, and homeless people from the REACH Cold Weather Shelter, organizer Ron Clipp said.

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Because Josh won't eat half of the traditional Thanksgiving fixings, Hughes said it made more sense to come to the church than stay home and fix a big meal.

While she and Josh were surrounded by other people at the dinner, they pretty much kept to themselves downstairs in the church's Rider Fellowship Hall.

Josh, 9, was eager to get home to play video games and watch television.

David and Karen Mullet also chose not to cook at home because they are staying with a friend who has a tiny kitchen.

This was the first time in nine years the couple didn't spend the holiday with other family members. Usually, they travel to Texas to spend the holiday with his family, but finances and pets led to them to stay in her hometown of Hagerstown this Thanksgiving.

"At least we have each other," said Karen Mullet, 44.

The couple planned to visit friends later in the day for a second Thanksgiving meal.

They found out about the church dinner from friend, Jeff Evans, 48, who was staying at the REACH Cold Weather Shelter.

The shelter, which was at a downtown church Thursday, had fliers posted around about different free holiday meals.

From all those fliers, Brad Prochaska and some friends from the shelter chose the church dinner to attend.

"I knew the food was going to be good. Good food and good people and good atmosphere," Prochaska said.

"All these churches around here are really great," he said.

Prochaska, 52, who lives on disability payments, said he expects to move into nearby Section 8 housing in time for Christmas.

His friend, Ernest Thomas, was full after one plate, which Prochaska said was unusual for Thomas.

"I'm stuffed pretty good," said Thomas, 50, patting his stomach with both hands.

Their friends James Watkins and James Long, both 46, had saved room for apple and pumpkin pie.

The long dessert table was covered with brownies, cherry pie, apples pies, several pumpkin pies and 16 cakes. There was chocolate cake with chocolate icing, yellow cake with chocolate, vanilla, orange, caramel or coconut icing, red velvet cake, orange cake and cranberry Bundt cake.

Despite Ruth and Claude Moser both being diabetics, Ruth Moser said their health was doing well enough they might be tempted by the sweet treats.

The Mosers, of Tammany Manor near Williamsport, were invited by several friends to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the church. The couple has made lots of friends in the area by participating in West End Senior Citizen Club events and trips.

"They are good cooks," said Ruth Moser, 70.

Bessie Eyler, 82, walked from her home a block away to enjoy two plates of "delicious" food. Eyler said she needed the two plates because she likes to keep her food separate.

Volunteers began preparing 13 turkeys on Tuesday and Wednesday, finishing the fixings on Thursday, Clipp said. People lined up to be served turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and sauerkraut.

The volunteers included Ginny Kline, who returned from her daughter's in Richmond, Va., to make gravy. Even a broken arm couldn't keep the 84-year-old Hagerstown resident from her duty as "gravy lady."

The annual Thanksgiving dinner at the church was started two years ago by four families wanting to make Thanksgiving special for everybody, Clipp said.

Besides Ron and Beth Clipp, Tracy Clipp's family, Colista and Dan Shoemaker, and Becky and George Stone helped start the event.

Last year, the event's volunteer staff doubled in number, organizers said.

"People find out how much fun it is," Beth Clipp said.

With so many volunteers, sometimes it can be hard to find work.

Matt Stone, 12, got to take a break and play with his Bay Blades and toy Green Goblin from "Spider-Man."

Matt said it's "cool" to help out and meet new people.

"Cause it feels good," he said.

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