Dec. 24—At a table in the noisy restaurant dining room, Tim Mellott carefully counted out stacks of cash.
It was a tradition for members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Frederick County, who filled up more than half a dozen tables at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Frederick Saturday morning.
More than 30 people had gathered for breakfast, with their tips going to the three waitresses who had served their tables.
But these weren’t just any tips. The group came up with an even $3,000, on top of the $624 bill they ran up.
Before leaving, they presented the money to the wait staff.
Each of their three waitresses would get $800, with the remaining $600 split among the other six servers who were working the morning shift.
Alicia Aravanis, one of the waitresses, said the money would go toward helping to pay for her wedding and honeymoon in April.
“It made coming out in that cold weather worth it,” said Jennifer Green, another of the waitresses.
The group has been to many different restaurants over the years, said Mark Stephens, who organizes the event.
The tradition started more than 10 years ago, when the pastor of his church took his four kids to the Waffle House in Urbana and left a $100 tip, Stephens said.
The group originated as one FCA Bible study group, which has now grown and divided into five or six different groups, said James Kelley, a football coach from Walkersville.
The tipping event is a great way to give back to the community, especially to the restaurant employees who have to work on Christmas Eve, he said.
“Serving you with a smile, when you know all the things they have going on,” Kelley said.
All of the coaches at the breakfast have been blessed, said Jim McKeever, a former youth coach in Urbana.
“Sharing that blessing is even better,” McKeever said.
He said Stephens was a spiritual mentor to him, and they started a men’s group that met every Friday morning at McKeever’s Ijamsville farm.
“I was just a farmer and construction guy, trying to cuss less,” he said.
The tip breakfast is a variety of FCA groups coming together, said Frank Krasner, who attends the group at McKeever’s farm.
“This is the annual warm and fuzzy [event],” Krasner said.
Yeny Guevara, one of the waitresses, said the group reminded her of the missionaries who used to come to her home town in El Salvador when she was growing up.
“These people are making a difference,” she said.
Green said it was clear that the group was made up of giving people.
“They definitely make you feel the joy of Christmas,” she said.
Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP