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'Around the Table' fills holiday tables

December 17, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- They call themselves "Around the Table," and the idea came as a group of Christian friends gathered for a meal in Tracy Clipp's kitchen.

In search of doing something meaningful for a holiday, the group settled on a plan to prepare a community Thanksgiving dinner.

This past Thanksgiving was the 10th year for the dinner, which is now served at St. John's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown. Clipp, 39, helps coordinate the meal.

"It started with the group of us -- four couples -- sitting around the kitchen table eating potpie," Clipp said.

Fueled by the support of their pastor, the group began planning and organizing. Each year, all of the food is donated or paid for with donations, Clipp said.

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With years of experience behind them, three of the women, including Colista Shoemaker and Becky Stone, start the planning process in October. Clipp, who has a day care facility in her Hagerstown home, looks forward to spending more time with her friends as Thanksgiving approaches.

"We've been friends for, oh my gosh, since my daughter was in pre-K, and she's 19 now. This is something we feel is in our hearts to do," Clipp said. "It has its up and its downs. That time of year brings us closer together."

In the two previous years, about 250 meals were provided -- about half delivered, the other half served in the church basement. This year, about 325 people were fed, an increase most likely due to the economy, Clipp said.

New faces join the roster of volunteers each year. Several Hagerstown Community College students joined the preparations and serving this year, organized by Stone's daughter, Maggie. Clipp said that each year they hope to see some of the regular volunteers they have come to know.

Despite the long hours of preparation and fatigue that results, Clipp said the group is on board to do it again next year.

"It's just a blessing to be able to help people," Clipp said.

Some Thanksgiving traditions just can't be missed, though, which is why Clipp tapes the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to watch once they get home after the meal. And they don't prepare a separate holiday meal for their family.

"When we're at the church, that is our Thanksgiving," Clipp said.

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