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Making a Place for All At Thanksgiving Table

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page VA03

People who live alone, the needy, shut-ins and families who simply want to share the holiday with others -- all are being welcomed today by Northern Virginia charities and houses of faith for Thanksgiving feasts and cheer.

From a white-tablecloth Thanksgiving dinner for the poor in Fairfax County to a community feast in Purcellville, organizations are reaching out to ensure that no one misses the chance to share in turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Irene Hurley, left, and Jean Gray, volunteers from Round Hill Baptist Church, fill Thanksgiving food bags at the Loudoun Community Holiday Coalition. More than 900 families signed up to get food. (Photos Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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The efforts vary as widely as the organizations hosting them.

The Salvation Army expects more than 275 people today at the Waterford at Fair Oaks, an elegant banquet facility donated for the occasion.

Instead of paper plates, disposable cups and plastic cutlery, guests -- who signed up in advance -- will dine at tables set with white tablecloths, china and silver, said Capt. Vic Tidman, co-corps officer for the Salvation Army's Fairfax County office.

"It's really a very different dinner for the Salvation Army," Tidman said. Volunteers will do the serving.

In Purcellville, a half-dozen churches and local merchants are putting on a community meal for anyone who lives in the town, coordinator Dave Park said.

"We're just interested in having anyone come by, regardless of their walk of life," Park said. "It doesn't single out any folks who are in special need. If you'd just like to have a meal with others in the community, then welcome."

About 80 volunteers are cooking turkey, ham, baked potatoes, sweet-potato casseroles and three kinds of pies for the repast, which will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today at Bethany United Methodist Church, Park said.

The Knights of Columbus in Arlington County also are throwing open their doors. Along with delivering about 1,000 meals to residents in Arlington and Falls Church who are normally served by Meals on Wheels, the group will host several hundred people for dinner at its meeting hall on Little Falls Road in Arlington this afternoon.

"It's basically for whoever needs a meal," said Sam Starr, the organization's Thanksgiving day coordinator. "We treat everybody as a guest -- as, indeed, they are."

For the elderly or disabled who would prefer to eat with a crowd rather than by themselves, the Knights have rented a bus and a van to transport diners to the hall.

But the focus for most Thanksgiving dinner efforts is the needy.

In Loudoun County, more than 900 low-income families last week got food boxes filled with fixings for a Thanksgiving feast, a gift certificate for a turkey and a coat for every family member, courtesy of the Loudoun Community Holiday Coalition.

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