An estimated 600 people had a very happy Thanksgiving last Thursday, solely due to the efforts of Mrs. Melissa Tallent and a band of volunteers, including students, teachers and other adults.
The project “No Kid Hungry” coordinated a Community Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving Day and passed out about 600 meals to people in the community.
The project brought together the entire school district, as well as sponsors and other volunteers for the sole purpose to join the community together as a whole, and it worked.
“I had 128 who came though the cafeteria who signed in, so I’m sure we had around 200 people in the cafeteria throughout the day,” Tallent said, noting that she knew of several who came but didn’t sign in. “We know we had 350 deliveries.”
Not only did the fellowship help those who didn’t have a way to get a Thanksgiving meal, it was also an eye-opener for the students and they were very humbled by the experience according to student volunteer Glen England.
“There is no telling how many times I’ve been told ‘thank you’ and that they appreciate what we have done,” England said.
Other than preparing the food, there were many other jobs students took part in to make the day a success.
Answering phone calls for delivery requests, mapping out the delivery route, making crafts and serving those who came in to the cafeteria are just several things students did in order to provide the fellowship to the community.
“There were a bunch of people we delivered to who said if it wasn’t for us they wouldn’t have had a Thanksgiving meal,” Mikaela Craig said. “People said they really appreciate how we came together to provide this meal for them.”
Tallent said the goal of the project was to bring the community together to make sure everybody had something this holiday season.
“I think it is a blessing to see the kids running to the door and to see their faces and how excited they were about having a meal,” Alex Beard said.
Whitney Bookout said there were several houses she delivered to that had only one adult and several kids without a Thanksgiving meal.
“They came out and just hugged me and Mikaela,” Bookout said. “I had one chasing me down the sidewalk. They just couldn’t wait to open the box and see what was inside of it.”
According to the students, many of the people they delivered to said this was their only source for a home cooked Thanksgiving meal.
“We went to this one place and this little old man opened the door and he asked what we had. We told him we had a meal for him and he said if it wasn’t for us he would have had to sit here alone on Thanksgiving with nothing to eat,” Tara Elmore said. “He was really thankful … he thanked us multiple times. It was unreal because sometimes you don’t see the people here who don’t have families and they don’t get to eat Thanksgiving meals with other people. It was a blessing that we could provide him with something.”
Not only does feeding the community help those who don’t have the means to get a Thanksgiving meal, it’s also a way for the community to work together toward a common goal.
“It’s a time to be thankful for your community and a time to give back to those who gave to you,” Mariah Thompson said.
“The good thing was seeing the cooperation and knowing that everybody was working toward one goal and everybody coming together to help these people out … It was really an enlightening experience for me,” Dustin Daley said. “You find out how much people can do when they set their mind to it and work together.”
Not only were the people who were getting the meals excited, Elmore said they were excited to be delivering them.
“It was good that we were excited to be helping,” Elmore said.
Tallent said she hasn’t seen a time when kids came together to accomplish what these kids did on Thanksgiving Day.
“How many people have had a young person do something for them because they wanted to and not because they had to?” Tallent said. “I got home on Saturday and taped to my door was a thank you note. I don’t know who it’s from … it was just signed, ‘God Bless.'”
The Thanksgiving Community Meal ended up cooking 45 turkeys that were donated to them, 10 large trays of dressing, 15 gallons of green beans, corn, cornbread, mashed potatoes and had several different desserts to feed the 600 people in the county.
“We ran out of green beans twice … we had to re-load on that twice,” Tallent said. “We had a little turkey and some desserts left over.”
Tallent said her crew started delivering around 11 a.m. and finally finished around 3:15 p.m.
“They delivered for almost four and a half hours,” Tallent said. “I made memories that day that I usually don’t make on Thanksgiving.”
Tallent said the people who came to the cafeteria didn’t rush their meal and leave. They stayed and were social with everybody.
“They would stay for hours,” Tallent said. “They ate their meal and would talk while their kids made crafts, then they would eat dessert and talk some more.”
The next project for the “No Kid Hungry” volunteers is to work on their summer program. Their plans are to convert a school bus to a mobile lunchroom where kids can sit down and eat a meal this summer.
“We hope that we will have enough private donations come through to convert the school bus,” Tallent said. “It’s not just a one time thing for these kids. They will come back and help even though most of them will graduate this year and that makes me proud of them!”
Even though the next project isn’t until the spring/summer, Tallent said the Thanksgiving meal is something she plans on doing for future years.
“We don’t want to detract from those groups who are doing Christmas events because we feel like they cover the areas really well,” Daley said. ” The idea is Thanksgiving just isn’t covered by a lot of people, so it’s good to do this one. We believe if we asked for donations for Christmas then we would be taking donations away from the smaller events.”
If anyone wants to donate anything for future projects for “No Kid Hungry,” contact Tallent at 606-387-5569.
“The students who put this together are to be commended … they are stars in my eyes and will be forever,” Tallent said. “The meal would not have been possible without Ms. Charlotte Bernard’s generosity and support of the Clinton County School District along with the many donations, money and food, but most importantly people giving of themselves.”
Thursday’s Community Thanksgiving meal saw volunteers come together to prepare 45 turkeys for the event. Above, David Butler, Melissa Tallent, Mike Beard and Gina Poore looked over several lists of deliveries Thursday morning in order to work out a delivery schedule for the Community Thanksgiving meal. Below, from left to right, Karen Cummings, Tammy Denney, Alex Beard, Melissa Tallent and Jessica Conner working to cut up the final turkey for the meal.