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Martinsburg's Breakfast in the Park a tradition that raises thousands for improvements

September 03, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Quilters of the Piecemakers Quilt Guild of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia keep busy at the Labor Day picnic at Martinsburg's War Memorial Park. They are, from left, Jan Yates, Patsy Smith, Lucy Hoffman and Becky Roberts.
Photo by Richard Belisle

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Labor Day Breakfast in the Park, a 65-year-old Martinsburg tradition, continued Monday with more than 500 diners sitting down to breakfast under the park’s main pavilion.

“It’s our single War Memorial Park fundraiser of the year,” said Bonn “Buzz” Poland, who for the umpteenth time organized the effort to get tickets out to the public.

This year’s breakfast, featuring steak or ham, cost $30.

Proceeds will be used to replace the McKee Pavilion with a larger structure and pay for renovations to the bathhouse.

The breakfast historically brings in about $10,000, said Steve Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board, which owns the park.

Those funds are matched with grants for which the board applies from such agencies as the National Park Service, West Virginia Community Participation Grant Program and the City of Martinsburg, Catlett said.

The park was built in 1948 by a committee of returning World War II veterans and local citizens as a memorial to the 121 Berkeley County residents who died in the war.

“Martinsburg already had the Doughboy monument downtown,” Poland said.

Philip T. Seibert, 96, the last surviving original committee member, attended Monday’s breakfast as an honoree, Poland said.

Today, in a place of honor on a hillside overlooking the park’s main pavilion, stand monuments to the county’s fallen from World War I through current conflicts.

A cadre of nearly 100 volunteers work on the breakfast, including ticket sellers, those who cook the steaks and ham, and scramble the eggs, those who wait on tables and those who clean up, Poland said.

Many of the volunteers are local elected officials who show up for work every year, said Pamela Games-Neely, Berkeley County’s prosecutor.

“It’s an unwritten rule,” she said. “It’s our opportunity to give something back.”

Former Berkeley County Sheriff Ron Jones, out of office since 2000, returns every year.

“I help out every year. It’s a community service and I always get to see old friends,” he said.

This year, the volunteer ranks were beefed up by candidates for local and state offices, including Games-Neely, who is running for re-election.

The ladies of the Piecemakers Quilt Guild of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia were back at their usual table this year. This time, their deft fingers were adding sections to their latest work, the 73-by-93-inch Monterey Medallion quilt.

As per tradition, the quilt will be raffled off to raise money so the 30 guild members can buy more quilting materials to keep their charitable works going.

It takes five to six months to sew a quilt as large and complicated as the Monterey Medallion. The annual raffle brings in $1,200 to $1,500, said member Jan Yates.

Every month, individual members sew smaller quilts that they donate to organizations such as Hospice of the Panhandle, Meals on Wheels, Bethany House and Children’s Home Society.

They also sew Christmas stockings for the local Women’s Club to fill for The Salvation Army.

Members usually work alone, but once a month, they gather for an old-fashioned quilting bee.

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