WASHINGTON COUNTY — With 68 people in their immediate family, sisters Teri Matters and Robin Davies said it was hard to keep up with the news in the family. The duo decided a family newsletter was needed.
Prompted by Davies’ purchase of a computer six years ago — she thought creating a newsletter would give her the incentive and practice she needed to learn how to use it — a monthly newsletter was born.
“Who knew 65 issues later we’d still be doing it?” Matters said.
The newsletter, now called “The Rhoderick Round-Up” after a naming contest, has taken on a life of its own. The sisters admit that some issues, the longest topping out at 14 pages, got overwhelming.
Now they try to limit it to six or seven pages, featuring a wealth of photos, proud moments, and inspirational columns and tidbits.
They even encourage creativity through a variety of contests, including an annual photo contest judged by outside judges, an ugly sweater contest at the Christmas party and a hunt to find photo clues on the family farm.
“We’re a very competitive family,” Davies said.
Davies, 54, of Halfway, is the oldest of Arthur and Nancy Rhoderick’s five children. Matters, 53, of Hagerstown, is 14 months younger. They have one sister and two brothers, and were raised on the family’s farm east of Hagerstown on White Hall Road.
The sisters said they have really connected over the time they spend together on the newsletter.
“We’ve bonded. We’re so close because of this,” Matters said.
Most family members receive their newsletters online, but a few older relatives like to received a printed copy.
“One of our biggest newsletter fans died this past April at age 93. She kept us going,” Davies said.
A niece prints out copies and keep them in binders, which is music to the editors’ ears. They also welcome feedback.
“We hope generations will keep them and look back,” Davies said.
A sports-minded family, columns include “Sports Scene,” featuring sports schedules and successes; “You Said It” with a funny comment said by a relative; and “Pages from Mom’s Journal.” There also are current and flashback pictures.
Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new babies and remembrances of family members who have died are also included.
There might be an interview with a family member or health tips, always with the thought of keeping the content changing to keep it interesting.
There are many contributors each month, the women said. They even have a special issue occasionally, like a poetry issue and the one that was dedicated to their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
It does take commitment, though.
“We both work full time,” said Davies, who works in the meat department at Martin’s Food Market on Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown.
“I started this when I had two other jobs,” said Matters, who works at FedEx.
Matters said she can count on spending most of the last weekend of the month and several other days working on the content. Throughout the month, Davies sends her photos and other items for her sister to format.
Then, they get together for at least an eight-hour day of finalizing and proofreading, fueled by snacks, coffee and laughter.
“We’ve sacrificed a lot,” Davies said.
“I usually miss the entire last weekend of the month doing this, but I can’t stop. I’d do anything for family,” Matters said.
They admit they’ve gotten more efficient with their time. Matters enjoys it so much that she’s thought of creating a business to get others started on their own family newsletters, but wonders if there’s enough interest.
In the meantime, they hope their tradition will continue.
“We hope somebody will be able to carry on when we can’t,” Davies said.