Volunteers assemble 2,000 meals

December 24, 2008|By Andrew Schotz

HAGERSTOWN -- Amid the ham and turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, was a lesson in efficiency and mass production.

This, volunteer Kathie Markell said, is how you teach children about an assembly line.

Markell, who works in Washington County Hospital's emergency room, was among about 140 volunteers on Wednesday assembling and delivering more than 2,000 free Christmas meals to people in the area, mostly senior citizens.

Empty plastic containers were passed from chafing dish to chafing dish, picking up green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, ham, turkey and gravy before they were ready to be sealed, bagged and delivered.

Another line assembled packages of rolls and desserts.

Then, volunteers fanned out through the Hagerstown area, armed with Christmas meals a day early.

The Lend a Hand operation started in 2002 with about 30 volunteers preparing meals for about 350 people, said Dr. Scott Wegner, a founding organizer along with Drs. Stephen Kotch and Thomas Gilbert.


This year's goal was to deliver about 2,100 meals.

Maryland Emergency Physicians, which took over the contract for the hospital's emergency room in October, has helped make the dinner giveaway bigger.

"We're supporting the efforts they started," said Dr. Angelo Falcone of MEP.

About half of the volunteers put together meals in a large room at Robinwood Medical Center.

The rest received their assignments and drove away toting bags and boxes.

"It's just formed into this high-speed operation," said Wegner, an emergency room doctor.

Misha Palladino, a nurse, took her children along as she headed out to deliver 36 meals to several addresses on High Street.

When people get their meals, "they're just real appreciative," she said.

That included John Hamilton, who lives with his wife, Grace, at Potomac Towers.

Hamilton went downstairs to watch Chris Amos, Community Rescue Service's chief, supervise the volunteers who split up and visited several floors with meals. Two meals were earmarked for the Hamiltons.

"This is a blessing," John Hamilton said. "I think this is very sweet and I thank God for this kindness toward the people here at Potomac Towers."

Hamilton said he retired after driving a bus in Virginia. He and his wife planned to move to Cumberland, Md., but they stopped in Washington County to visit their son, found a church they liked in Falling Waters, W.Va., and stayed.

CRS paramedic Liz Grissom and her children, Kyle, 14, and Becca, 12, took several meals to the third floor, where some people were home and some weren't.

Geraldine Cromer opened a door and smiled as the Grissoms handed her meals for her and her husband, Harry, who is known as John.

Geraldine Cromer said she and her husband helped run the H. Earl Cromer Store on East Franklin Street until it closed in 1995.

On Jan. 1, 2001, John Cromer had a severe hemorrhagic stroke. But, through therapy, he's improved. The couple will celebrate 56 years of marriage on New Year's Eve.

Geraldine Cromer, whose first job was at Washington County Hospital, said she greatly appreciates Lend a Hand. "To have a meal like that, it means a lot ...," she said. "They did something really great for the community."

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