- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A week after an ailing philanthropist canceled his annual charity Christmas dinner, a group of doctors has stepped forward to fill the void.

Medical workers who had planned to deliver 500 free meals to homebound senior citizens in the Hagerstown area on Christmas Eve will add a sit-down dinner for 500 at the Robinwood Medical Center cafeteria that afternoon, Dr. Scott Wegner said Tuesday.

“We thought, ‘How much harder can it be to feed a thousand rather than 500,’” Dr. Wegner told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Dr. Wegner, an emergency room doctor from Germantown, said the group isn’t trying to duplicate restaurateur Nick Giannaris’ annual dinner, which served up to 1,500 people a year for the past 17 years. Mr. Giannaris, recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, said last week he could not continue the tradition at his Four Points Sheraton hotel.

“We’re not Nick,” Dr. Wegner said.

But he said he and the other emergency room doctors hope their Christmas Eve dinner becomes an annual tradition.

Thirty to 40 people have volunteered, including Washington County Hospital employees who will contribute homemade pies and traditional holiday side dishes, Dr. Wegner said.

The medical staff and hospital donated money to buy the food. A local butcher shop, Penn Avenue Meats, is cooking 300 pounds of ham and deboning the turkey breasts, which will be roasted at the hospital by the food service staff, Dr. Wegner said.

Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Hagerstown has donated the use of its kitchen, and the Pfizer pharmaceutical company is paying a band to play dinnertime music, he said.

The hospital is donating use of a truck to get the food to Robinwood, and ambulance workers have volunteered to help deliver the meals, Dr. Wegner said.

Last year, Dr. Wegner organized delivery of 350 Christmas meals to two senior citizen public housing developments. Many emergency room patients are older people who fall through the cracks of the social services network, he said.

“We’ve got so many families here and so many people who are willing to help,” Dr. Wegner said.

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