Meal draws needy, lonely Others find joy in serving them ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY--Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

Foil-covered green salad, cole slaw, potato salad, cabbage rolls, carrots, green beans with almonds, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, sauerkraut and a dish bearing a sticker that read "Hello. My name is rice." That was the food lineup on just the first table.

Tallied, there were 25 chafing dishes warming donated foods for yesterday's free Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Letts near Mayo. And that's not including desserts stretching about 15 feet and the cupcakes still in the kitchen.


About 1,000 people -- some needy, some lonely -- turned out for the dinner organized by Linda Greenberg of Crownsville, and about 350 volunteers entertained, served up the food, handed out balloons or held babies while parents ate.

This was the fourth such dinner Mrs. Greenberg, a longtime advocate for the needy, has put together at the YMCA camp's dining hall, only it had twice as many diners as last year.


It was the first time the Rev. Mary Hunt of Grace of God Holiness Church in Severna Park helped out. She hopes it won't be the last.

"From now on, it's here. If the Lord gives me breath, I'll be here," she said. She was handing out carnations -- five florists donated about 1,500 flowers with pins -- to women there.

The dinner was for anyone who needed a place for a holiday meal, from the down-and-out to people who just didn't want to be alone.

For David Slocum, who spends nights at a Baltimore shelter, the dinner was more than just turkey and trimmings.

"I'm just thankful that I have a place to come. Otherwise, I'd be depressed, walking around . . . on the street, walking around, doing nothing."

Here, he sat in a noisy, festive atmosphere, with singers from Antioch Apostolic Church in Arnold singing "I Feel Like Praising His Name." Entertainment, from puppet shows to gospel singing, was constant through the afternoon.

Dorothy Hodges of Annapolis said if not for the dinner, she'd have spent a dreary day at home alone. An elderly widow whose right side is paralyzed, she often finds cooking difficult, and was delighted when Mrs. Greenberg invited her.

Bus companies throughout the area had donated their services to transport people to the wooded camp. Kenny Stacker, a driver with Shaw Bus Service Inc. of Catonsville, volunteered to bring people from Baltimore for the 1 p.m. serving, stay and bring them back around 5 p.m.


"My family is in Carolina and Virginia and D.C. We were together two weeks ago," he said.

Like the guests, volunteers came from everywhere between the District of Columbia and Baltimore. They ranged from organized groups, such as the Civitan Club of Glen Burnie, to a Macungie, Pa., grandmother who had come to visit her daughter in Arnold for the holidays and got put to work bottle-feeding infants.

Each of the approximately 60 tables was assigned a student host. South River High School alone had 50 students there, some waiting on tables, some costumed. The students had decorated the dining hall as well, said social studies teacher Shelley Finkelstein, who was coordinating the volunteers.

"We'll go home and eat later. We'll have had a wonderful experience and we'll be more thankful," she said.

Giggles the clown, -- a.k.a. Katie Owens, an 11th-grader at South River -- made her way among the tightly packed tables handing out balloons and tickling children with a pink, stuffed pig. When her last bunch of balloons became hopelessly tangled, Tamika Mack of Baltimore, who had her eye on one, was near tears.

"I'll tell you what, sweetheart, you want the whole thing?" Giggles asked the 3-year-old.


Enchanted, the child allowed the balloons to be tied to her chair while she sat on her mother's lap to eat.

Mrs. Greenberg estimated that there was enough food for 2,000 people. She said everyone would take home leftovers along with gifts, such as board games for older children and stuffed animals for the younger ones.