Meritus staff, volunteers prepare, deliver Christmas dinners for more than 2,000

December 24, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Volunteers from the Meritus Medical Center emergency department, Washington County Public Schools and local social services agencies assemble and deliver about 2,300 meals for area families on Monday, Christmas Eve, in the 10th annual Lend-A-Hand project.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — A foam meal tray is pulled from a tower of trays and moved down a row of tables, where someone places a slice of ham in the tray, and then another volunteer tops it with a slice of turkey.

Then a scoop of stuffing, a spoonful of buttered green beans, a plop of roasted potatoes and a ladle full of gravy are added. The tray is closed and slid around the corner of tables, where someone packs it into a red reusable Meritus Health bag.

Another container, holding a slice of pumpkin pie, a roll, cranberry sauce and whipped spread is added to the bag.

At least 200 volunteers were busy cooking, packing and delivering hot meals Monday morning and afternoon for approximately 2,300 Washington County residents on Christmas Eve.

This was the 11th year for the Lend-A-Hand Dinner sponsored by Meritus Medical Center’s medical staff and Medical Emergency Professionals, which is the contracted group that staffs the medical center’s Emergency Department, said Dr. Stephen Kotch from the medical center’s Emergency Department. The first dinner, in 2002, was run out of a church basement, he said.

Most of the day’s effort at the Robinwood Professional Center began at 7 a.m. and was expected to wrap up around 1 p.m., Meritus Health spokeswoman Nikki Jovel said.

“I was here at 5:30 this morning, and I didn’t sleep at all last night,” said Linda Baumer, retail manager for Meritus Health.

Baumer was responsible Monday for the food.

She was recognized Monday during a brief break in the auditorium before Kotch lightheartedly ordered everyone back to work.

“Oh, I am having fun. It’s nice to know that you’re helping other people. That’s the most important part,” Baumer said.

Baumer said the two medical groups that sponsored the dinner donated $7,500 to pay for the 2011 Christmas Eve dinner. She did not have the cost yet for this year’s dinner.

Pepsi and Surebet Services, of Martinsburg, W.Va., donated sodas for the volunteers, Holsum Bakery donated doughnuts and Hershey’s Ice Cream donated ice cream for the volunteers, she said.

On one side of the Newman Auditorium, inside the Robinwood Professional Center, were two lines of volunteers scooping and spooning hot food into the meal containers.

On the other side of the auditorium, volunteers were placing cold items into smaller containers.

In the front of the room, people were using metal pie cutters that, after being pressed into a pumpkin pie and lifted, left each pie sliced into eight pieces.

The bags of meals were grouped by how many meals they contained.

Yet more volunteers carted the bags out to vehicles, including sport utility vehicles and ambulances, as about 90 families volunteered to deliver the meals, said Beth Hout, Kotch’s executive assistant.

Community Rescue Service and Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services were helping with deliveries, Jovel said.

The list of meal recipients is compiled using input from the hospital and various groups, including the Washington County Commission on Aging, Washington County Public Schools, shelters and adult-living facilities such as Potomac Towers and Walnut Towers, Kotch said.

Any leftovers were to be delivered to The Salvation Army in Hagerstown, Jovel said.

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