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Demand and spirits high for Robinwood dinner

December 26, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

This year's Robinwood Medical Center Christmas Eve dinner largely was a takeout affair. Almost all of the 1,000-plus free meals served in five hours Wednesday were to go.

Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, vegetables and dessert were boxed, packed and delivered to shelters, apartment buildings and churches. Christmas cards were added to takeout bags.

Washington County Hospital emergency room doctor Scott Wegner organized the complimentary meal last year. About 350 portions were sent to Potomac Towers and Walnut Towers.

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This year, without the annual Christmas With Nick feast, there were three times as many requests for Robinwood Medical Center meals.

Four Points Sheraton owner Nick Giannaris decided last month not to continue his free Christmas Day meal, which drew up to 1,500 people some years. Giannaris said he has Parkinson's disease and his health is worsening.

Even before Christmas With Nick was canceled, Wegner expected to hand out about 500 meals.

By 2 p.m., volunteers had delivered more than 870 meals. An order of 100 then came in from the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission. A church called in asking for another 65.

Mike Smith, 47, of Hagerstown, was among 30 or so - not counting volunteers - who ate in Robinwood Medical Center's airy atrium.

Daryl Davis of Silver Spring, Md., (on keyboard) and Gene Meros of Baltimore (on saxophone) played American roots music by a cascading rock fountain.

"This is great - dinner and a show," Smith said.

A Hagerstown native who last lived in Alexandria, Va., Smith said he is home again, working for the U.S. Census Bureau.

"I don't have anyone to spend Christmas with ..." he said. "It's nice that people do something like this for people like us, living alone."

Friends who now are married share holidays with their families.

"It's not like the old days," Smith said.

Carole Feigley, a nursing staffing manager volunteering for the day, chatted with Smith as he ate, a pair of miniature snowmen bobbing on a band across her head.

John P. Donoghue was there, too - as a volunteer, not a state delegate - with his wife, Amy; sons, Philip, 16, Paul, 14, and Jay 11; and daughter, Erin, 17.

They helped set up and take down tables and trays. The children sat with people who wanted company.

The family wanted to "spread some good cheer," Donoghue said.

Rebecca Miller, 85, shared a table and meal with her son, Joe Miller, 53. Each lives alone, in separate but adjacent homes on Jefferson Boulevard.

Rebecca Miller said she was glad to get out because the few months since her husband died have been tough.

Wegner, of Germantown, Md., said the effort "will expand exponentially."

He talked about delivering 1,500 meals next time - and providing at other times.

"Maybe we can do more during the year," Wegner said.

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