Strangers till now, the two men sat in a dining hall booth, bowed their heads and said grace.

Then Army Staff Sgt. Dewey Weaver of Fort Belvoir, and Ernest Morgan, resident of a homeless shelter, tucked into their Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of the Army post's 30th Engineer Corps' culinary staff.

It was a lavish soup-to-nuts meal -- turkey, ham and beef with all the trimmings -- that the soldiers offered yesterday to their less fortunate neighbors at the South County Community Shelter on Rte. 1 in Fairfax County.

"Neighbors are supposed to share . . . that's what Fort Belvoir is trying to do," said the garrison commander, Col. Robert R. Hardiman.

Washington area residents paused and reflected yesterday on their personal trips to bountiful. For blessings large and small, they celebrated Thanksgiving Day.

And then many of them, like those at Fort Belvoir, reached out to those less fortunate. They also spent the day, whose balmy, spring-like weather suggested daffodils more than fallen leaves, visiting relatives, absorbing the sunshine and making the best of it if their jobs didn't allow for a holiday.

More than 100 soldiers, some of them working since 4 a.m., helped prepare the meal served in a Fort Belvoir dining hall, which was decorated with orange streamers, ice sculptures, lavishly frosted cakes and a banner proclaiming "We The People."

Volunteers from all four military services as well as from the post's civilian staff accompanied about 35 of the shelter's residents who were bused to the post just before noon. There, they were met by a receiving line of top brass, including the Fort Belvoir commander, Maj. Gen. William H. Reno.

Hardiman said that his superiors offered the meal to the shelter -- one of eight around the country operating with Army assistance -- after discovering that its meager kitchen facilities meant that it was going to bring in packaged food for Thanksgiving.

Separated from his family in Missouri by a temporary assignment here, Sgt. Weaver, 30, said he volunteered to be host to a shelter resident because "every year, my wife and I invite a soldier for dinner" at holiday times. "And since I'm away from home . . . I decided this was the next best thing."

Morgan, 21, a construction foreman from Columbus, Ohio, said he took refuge in the shelter two days ago and was pretty surprised at being offered a Thanksgiving meal at the Army base. He pronounced it "great."

"It beats the shelter's" food, said shelter resident Robert Campbell.

In Alexandria, about 1,000 runners turned out for the city's 13th annual Turkey Trot road race, sponsored by the Potomac West Trade Association.

"It's a Thanksgiving race," said association Chairman Michael Hadeed, explaining that a can of food is part of the entry fee. ALIVE Inc., a community group, distributes the donations to the hungry, Hadeed said. "Last year, we collected more than 4,000 cans," he said.

The race's five-mile "flat and easy" course took the runners from Cora Kelly Elementary School along Commonwealth Avenue to Cedar Street, and back.

Alexandria native Bruce Coldsmith, 30, a long-distance track coach at the University of Southern Alabama, won the race in an unofficial 23.5 minutes.

City Council member Carlyle C. Ring ran his daughter's dog in the race. "This is a first place dog," Ring said of Saxony. "We ran for two blocks."

So who was home basting and stuffing the turkey while the runners were racing?

"My daughter Mary said that she wanted for the first time to be responsible for the whole meal," said a flushed and perspiring runner, Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran. He bought the 22-pound turkey; she cooked it.

"My husband," replied safety crossing guard Margaret Saunders as she kept cars away from the course. "I admit it. I don't know how to cook." Her husband Reggie was doing the honors. She and their three children would help him eat it, Saunders said.

There was room for more than just turkey on holiday plates yesterday. About 1 p.m., parking places were scarce at the International House of Pancakes in Silver Hill.

"Oh, I'm just getting ready for this evening," joked Barrington Greene, 50, a District resident who had just finished a breakfast of pancakes. "I'm just getting lining in my stomach" for dinner, he said.

Inside, waitress Vivian Jeter of Lanham said she was surprised at the restaurant's busy trade. "But you know," she said, "I can understand it. Get out of the house; leave me alone in the kitchen. I think moms like it better that way."

As a hotel caterer, Donald Barlow said he spends each Thanksgiving Day on the job, struggling to complete endless dinner orders. Usually he waves goodbye to friends heading home for holiday feasts, and then eats alone.

Not anymore. Barlow and a few other District hotel caterers who are self-proclaimed orphans for the holiday met yesterday at a Connecticut Avenue apartment and enjoyed the finest of the foods they prepare daily for thousands of hotel guests.

"This is becoming a traditional thing for us, because we just can't get out of the city this time of year," said Barlow, a catering manager at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel. "So we spread the word and organize a potluck dinner for caterers."

Labeling their meal potluck, however, is hardly accurate. Emphasizing that caterers excel at making complete meals, Barlow listed their menu: turkey and stuffing, cranberry fruit bread, chocolate pie and French champagne.

"This kind of thing is not unusual in the hotel industry," he said. "And caterers especially make the best of it."

With a foil-covered tray of turkey on her shoulder, Debora Cackler moved through the crowd of homeless people gathered on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The 23-year-old senior at George Washington University was among those who helped cook and serve the Community for Creative Non-Violence's Thanksgiving meals for the homeless yesterday at the Capitol and Lafayette Park.

Cackler said she and her friends brought six homeless persons from Lafayette Park to their home on Garfield Street NW for a turkey dinner. "It's been terrific," the Iowa native said of her Thanksgiving Day.

CCNV's Mitch Snyder estimated that about 1,000 homeless people ate dinner at the Capitol site, where radio music, an accordionist and a tenor all competed for air space.

Snyder said fewer people were probably being served by his group this year "because many more people are serving meals, which is a good thing."