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Whole town gets together at annual dinner

Ernst Country Market provides free meal 'to give back to the community'

Ernst Country Market provides free meal 'to give back to the community'

April 05, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

CLEAR SPRING - Scores of neighbors, about 150 pounds of ham and 16 gallons of succotash came together Wednesday as the Clear Spring community sat down for an early Easter dinner.

George Rowe, manager/partner at Ernst Country Market said the dinner was a time to share fellowship with other community members. The store has provided free meals for community members for 12 years.

"I think it's fabulous, especially for people who have a hard time, people who really can't make meals, or people who don't have a lot of time," said Stephanie Pine, who sat between her 5-year-old daughter and mother-in-law at Blairs Valley Community Building.

Greg Ernst said the store provides the meal as a way to give back to the community, and he downplayed the event.

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"The community's been good to us, so it's something ... that we do in return," said Ernst, who owns the store.

At a table near the serving line, where volunteers dished up ham, mashed potatoes and gravy and other dishes, longtime residents Delores Mellott and Jean Clark tried to place where they had met before.

"I've seen you and spoken to you, probably at the store," Mellott told Clark, who sat at the table with her hands on a packaged meal prepared for her son.

"Well, that's the way our community is," Clark responded.

Mellott and other diners at the community meal said they recognized a lot of neighbors, acquaintances and friends.

"Oh, yeah, there's a lot of people that we know," Mellott said.

Both Clark and Mellott said Wednesday's meal was the first they attended.

Clark said an employee at the store convinced her to attend, and she was waiting for that employee to make an appearance. Clark said she planned to give her a hug.

"It was very good, the food was delicious. I enjoyed it all," Clark said.

When a man announced diners could return to the serving line for more food, Lloyd Swope, 23, who was sitting with his parents and brother, vowed to return.

"I"ll have the seconds, I'll have the thirds," Swope said.

Clark, a first-time diner, also said she would return - next year.

"In fact, we might bring more people. We'll say, 'You don't want to miss this,'" Clark said.

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