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Emergency room doctors, staff lend a hand for holiday dinner

December 26, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Christmas Eve dinner that started with about 400 meals three years ago tripled in number this year, with about 1,200 people receiving a free holiday meal on Friday.

The Lend-A-Hand Dinner, started by Washington County Hospital emergency room doctor Scott Wegner, included ham, turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, said Judy Fogelsonger, nutrition service director at the hospital.

The Washington County Emergency Medicine Physicians liked the idea and committed to it, Wegner said.

Hospital employees and other volunteers helped cook and deliver about 1,200 meals to people identified by local organizations. About 15 organizations and agencies helped with the event.

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"It's just a good opportunity for us to serve the community," Dr. Stephen Kotch said.

The food was prepared at Robinwood Medical Center, where emergency services personnel picked up the meals and delivered them throughout Washington County.

Kotch said he helped prepare stuffing, potatoes and vegetables and then planned to help with deliveries.

The meals were planned to go to individual homes, senior citizen homes and several agencies, according to a written statement.

Wegner said the volunteers expected to deliver about 1,000 meals but that 1,200 were being prepared just in case.

"We bought enough food that we can serve 1,200 to 1,500 people," Wegner said.

If any meals are leftover once the deliveries are completed, Wegner said the volunteers intended to hand out food to the homeless.

He said hospital employees had a list of about 70 volunteers, but that number usually turns out to be more than 100.

"We find out that people just show up to help," Wegner said.

Dr. Thomas Gilbert said the doctors decided to get involved because the homeless or other less fortunate people would go to the emergency room looking for meals.

"So, we thought it was a good thing to do and the right thing to do," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said the Lend-A-Hand Dinner grew to 800 meals last year.

"This is really a family thing," hospital spokeswoman Marina Shannon said. "A lot of the emergency room doctors brought their families. Everyone is helping out. It's kind of neat."

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