Spreading Thanksgiving Cheer

PARRY McCLUER Middle School teacher Courtney Dickinson-Austin helps distribute a Thanksgiving meal prep bag to a parent of a PMMS student. Parents of each student were invited to pick up a free Thanksgiving turkey meal last Friday as part of a school community outreach initiative by faculty and staff. (Harrison Mines photo)

PARRY McCLUER Middle School teacher Courtney Dickinson-Austin helps distribute a Thanksgiving meal prep bag to a parent of a PMMS student. Parents of each student were invited to pick up a free Thanksgiving turkey meal last Friday as part of a school community outreach initiative by faculty and staff. (Harrison Mines photo)

THANKSGIVING meal prep bags are ready for assembly in the Parry McCluer Middle School auditorium last Friday. With help from Food Lion and other community partners, PMMS faculty and staff gave every student’s family a Thanksgiving turkey and other grocery items for the holiday. (Harrison Mines photo)

THANKSGIVING meal prep bags are ready for assembly in the Parry McCluer Middle School auditorium last Friday. With help from Food Lion and other community partners, PMMS faculty and staff gave every student’s family a Thanksgiving turkey and other grocery items for the holiday. (Harrison Mines photo)

PMMS Offers Free Holiday Meals To All Students

“Thanksgiving is a time for being with family, sharing and creating memories, and enjoying a delicious meal with your loved ones,” Parry McCluer Middle School Principal Debbie Gilbert wrote in a letter to student families last week. Gilbert’s letter served as a formal announcement for a special holiday initiative within the school community.

“We would like to help with your holiday meal,” Gilbert wrote on behalf of the Parry McCluer Middle School faculty and staff, who arranged for every student to receive a Thanksgiving Day meal “prep bag” Friday, Nov. 22. From noon to 5 p.m., parents of students were invited to come by the PMMS auditorium and collect their Thanksgiving bag, complete with a full-size turkey, for the holiday.

Gilbert told The News-Gazette she had long thought of ways to help her students this time of year. She explained generous folks in the community had reached out in the past to help any handful of students in need. Though their gesture was well-intentioned, she said, the population in need at Parry McCluer Middle extends beyond just a couple of students.

“It’s not hard to do, but it’s hard on youheart,” Gilbert said of selecting small numbers of students to help out. “The school system is No. 2 in the state for socio-economic disadvantage. I thought, ‘Why can’t we do something for everybody?’”

Faculty and staff worked with Food Lion and the Community Foundation for Rockbridge, Bath and Allegheny, as well as community residents, to gather donations for purchasing contents of the Thanksgiving meal prep bags. Along with a turkey, the bag included rolls, a two-liter soda, and pumpkin bread made in-house at the Blue Hole Café, a cooking program at the middle school. The Café, run by students, serves community members throughout the school year with homemade meals. Last week, students used their skills in the kitchen to give back to their classmates’ families.

“We think of this gesture as our way of encouraging families to gather around a table and create memories that will last a lifetime,” Gilbert wrote to families in the announcement. Parents were also notified of the giveaway by the school messenger system to ensure the news of the opportunity spread to as many households as possible.

The Parry McCluer Middle School auditorium saw piles of packaged turkeys Friday afternoon, alongside other grocery items for the taking. A steady flow of parents wandered in throughout the day to pick up their meal prep bags at their leisure. Gilbert explained there was no pressure in the initiative, as every single student was given the same opportunity to accept the help for the holiday.

“We wanted this to be available for everyone,” Gilbert said. “Not just about the haves and the have-nots — because many of our families have not.”

The News-Gazette

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