Admissions Director Christa Jackson, who has helped to organize the project each year, noted that somewhere along the way, a generous parent decided that despite the name Everything but the Turkey, giving out just the canned food wasn’t enough. Stating that the recipients needed a proper Thanksgiving meal, that parent donated a ham for each stop on the delivery route.
“It set a new precedent,” said Jackson. “We have been able to serve more people each year, and bring each family a much larger offering.”
Students in all grades begin bringing in pantry items in early November, with each grade being assigned different items to avoid collecting too much of one thing. Once the items are collected, the Middle School Student Council members sort the food, dividing it up evenly so that each recipient will get approximately the same delivery.
This year, students sorted more than 3,500 donated boxes and cans of fruit, vegetables, rice, beans, cereal, pasta, and more. Once all the food is sorted and packed, Student Council members personally deliver a large supply to each family. The school also continues to supply a ham for each recipient, and has added freshly baked bread, bags of apples and oranges, and pumpkin pies baked by the Saint Mary’s School Beta Club to the list.
The project was able to support 18 local families with food for the holidays, as well as make a sizable donation to the Rome Floyd County Community Soup Kitchen.
“Some families have counted on us year after year,” recalled Jackson. “But the list does continue to grow. This year we got a call from a family that lost a parent two days before we were set to deliver. We also heard from a family who lost everything in a house fire the previous week. I’m so grateful to all our students and their families for being so generous with their donations. It was because of their wonderful effort that I was able to tell these families, and all the others, that we could help.”
In addition to the service project, elementary students at Saint Mary’s celebrated Thanksgiving in the classroom. Students in first and second grades came to school dressed as Native Americans and Pilgrims, respectively, and spent the morning visiting stations where they participated in Thanksgiving-themed activities. Students decorated wigwams and Mayflower ships, sampled Native American fry bread, made Thanksgiving Blessing mix, and played games that early American settler children might have enjoyed.
Fourth grade students, after wrapping up a unit on explorers, natives, and settlers in North America, hosted a traditional Thanksgiving meal. They sampled foods that Pilgrims may have eaten, including squash, corn and nuts, and made comparisons on how the commemorative meal has changed over the centuries.
Though it was eventful, the school began its last day before the Thanksgiving break with a prayer service. Deacon Stuart Neslin presided over the service with a reminder to the students. As he blessed the numerous boxes of food to be delivered for the service project and addressed the young children in costume, he asked the entire student body to recall the meaning of the holiday as they participated in the day’s activities. Whether learning about the first Thanksgiving, or helping to continue its tradition through the sharing of blessings, Neslin urged each of them to focus on what it truly means to give thanks.