Free Thanksgiving meals for struggling families

STUDENTS SUPPORT COMMUNITY — National Honor Society members were among many Wright City students contributing to a food collection for families in need to have a complete Thanksgiving holiday meal provided for free. Pictured here, from left, are NHS members Tristen Head, Anna Russell, Emma Wegrzyn, Payton Mosbey, and Daniel McGowan with food collected at the high school. Submitted photo.
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

It’s been a tough year for many people, especially those already struggling with finances, so Wright City school staff, students, and community groups are making sure those in need are getting a little help with their Thanksgiving holiday.

Boxes prepackaged with a complete Thanksgiving meal, turkey and all, will be given away this Saturday along with coats and gloves during the annual Thanksgiving Outreach at Wright City West Elementary. The program is a collaboration of Wright City schools, Unite Wright City, and Hanny’s Market.

High school counselor Jennifer Sommer said this is the third year of a district-wide collection effort to provide Thanksgiving meals to families in the community who might not be able to afford a special celebration. Anyone can come get a box without calling ahead — just come to West Elementary at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sommer said.

Volunteers are planning to give away meals to more than 100 families, Sommer said. Students and staff at each of the district’s four schools provided all the food items except the turkeys.

“When we priced it out, aside from the turkeys, the non-perishables are about $20-$25 per box,” Sommer said. Spread across everyone in the district, she said, that’s an easy cost to support the community. This year, deserts and cold weather clothes are being bundled in with the boxes as well.

“We try to stuff the boxes with a little more as we can,” Sommer commented.

The challenge now, she said, is making sure those community members in need are aware the meals are available to them. Last year, volunteers took leftover boxes to low-income areas around town. Sommer is hoping more will come to the school this year.

“We really want to be able to meet families that may not speak up, who may need a little nudge to say ‘Just come.’ We’re here to help,” Sommer said.

No students are present on the day of the Thanksgiving Outreach in order to preserve the privacy of families. However, students play a major role in the preparation and collection. At the high school, much of the work is done by National Honor Society.

Each of the NHS members was challenged to individually collect two or three boxes of food to contribute, said member Anna Russell.

“The whole point of NHS is to serve your community and try to help others in need,” Russell said. “If you’re part of NHS, you have that heart, that drive to help others.”

Middle school counselor Elizabeth Secosh said younger students were motivated to contribute by making the food collection a competition between classes. Each school had a goal of 25 boxes, which Secosh said will easily be surpassed.

“I almost feel overwhelmed,” Secosh commented. “Holy moly. They just did so well.”

Secosh said being part of the Thanksgiving Outreach highlights the sense of community in Wright City, and how much people are willing to do to help their neighbors.

“We met a few families (last year) who would not have come to my attention. I would not have known they needed something, and they just said, ‘This is so wonderful,” Secosh commented.

To complete each meal box with the main dish, the turkey, school organizers turn to the Unite Wright City community group. Co-founder Heidi Halleman said the group uses donations to purchase the turkeys from Hanny’s Market, which generously provides the birds at-cost.

“Obviously the holidays can be pretty hard on people. I find it amazing that our community can get together to provide up to 140 meals, and sometimes more than that,” Halleman said. “It’s neat that the kids can learn from a young age to help their neighbors, and make it fun in the process.”

Halleman said Unite Wright City and the schools have focused on collecting more hats, coats and gloves this year to provide a little extra help.

The Thanksgiving Outreach is Saturday, Nov. 21, at Wright City West Elementary from 10-11 a.m. Items will be given away in a contact-free drive-thru in front of the school.


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