Salamanca schools host 4th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Members of the community enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner hosted Monday by the Salamanca City Central School District.

SALAMANCA — On Monday, the Salamanca City Central School District held its fourth annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, run by the student-organized Key Club, part of the Kiwanis Club family, with help from the school district, staff, students and community.

“This is truly an amazing cooperative event,” said Kim Dry, Key Club co-advisor. “Preparations are a joint effort between the Key Club organizing the whole dinner, but the students in each of the classes donate a good majority of the food.”

Dry said the teachers work with high school students in all grades to make collecting some of the food a fun event. For example, teachers Brooke Canale and Brandy Kinney create an event called the Hunger Games to incentivize the collection.

“They were able to collect over 3,000 pounds of potatoes,” Dry said. “Others, including Mr. DiGennaro, Mrs. Ferrucci, the 8th-grade team and Mr. Happoldt, get creative with homework if students bring in products for the event.”

This year, 8th-grade students were in charge of paper products, freshmen brought cranberries, sophomores gathered potatoes, juniors got stuffing and seniors collected corn.

Planning for next year’s dinner begins the day after the last one, Dry said, already thinking how they can make it better. As a club, they meet often about a month out to plan and organize.

“Our President Kendell Valvo is excellent about getting us organized,” Dry said. Dry, assistant principal Lynn Magiera and assistant superintendent Dr. Mark Beehler are continuously working on logistics for the dinner and picking up supplies that they might need.

In its first three years, the dinner served about 400 people, 900 people and 1,100 people, and Dry said they hoped to serve even more Monday.

“Things have changed a little, but the work and logistics are the same,” she said. “We just have to make more food and be creative about the seating. We have to have tables set up in the halls because of the increase in attendance.”

The Key Club has about 50 students this year and Dry said they are all willing to help at every event they are a part of. Students are assigned different areas they are in charge of for pre-dinner and dinner preparations, from taking tickets and greeting the public to setting the tables and decorating, but everyone is responsible for clean-up.

“The Builders Club is the Seneca Intermediate club associated with Kiwanis Club, and they and Key Club volunteered to help decorate for this event this year,” Dry said. “We are really building a system-wide Kiwanis, Key Club, Builders Club, K-Kids community service culture, and the students love it.”

Dry said the event is stronger than ever and the students are always excited to be a part something so cool as to serve their community a free homemade Thanksgiving dinner.

“It is not something that they have to be begged to help with,” she said. “They literally volunteer to be apart of this event.”

Not much has changed in preparing for the dinner over the years, but how much needs to be prepared has. Dry said it takes a little longer every Sunday before the dinner when they do the preparations for most of the dinner.

“Approximately 25 to 30 students came Sunday morning along with other staff, Penny Beattie, Peggy Revetti, Ann Smith, Lynn Magiera, Niles Panus, Liz Wingier and Debbie Waterman,” she said. “The students helped prep the potatoes, corn, stuffing, turkeys and cranberry sauce and gravy. And, of course, with the increase in numbers attending also equates to an increase in cost, and the Key Club always finds a way through answered prayer and hard work.”

In addition to over 3,000 pounds of potatoes, Dry said they have enough corn, stuffing and cranberry sauce to feed 1,200 people, and anything extra goes right back to the community.

“We always have an area set up there that allows attendees to take what they need in terms of potatoes, corn, stuffing and cranberry sauce,” she said. “No matter what the numbers are that we are serving, there always seems to lots of leftovers.”

Anything the attendees don’t take goes to community programs such as the food kitchen, homeless shelters and the Zafron house, and the fresher leftovers go right to the fire department, police department and more, Dry said. “Everyone benefits. Win-win.”

Dry said this event is a chance for the community to see the amazing children in the school district with nobody twisting their arms to volunteer.

“They ask to help as they all understand what a cool opportunity is to give back to your community,” she said. “I believe that they feel that wonderful feeling: it is better to give than to receive. They love to see the community enjoy what they have labored.”

No person is an island in the community, Dry said, and the dinner is free because the students, staff, parents and community donate to make this happen.

“It’s a community event organized by the Key Club, but 100 percent supported by the graciousness and giving hearts of the whole community,” she said.

Key Club advisors Kim Dry, Lynn Magiera and Dr. Mark Beehler would like to thank everyone for their support because they know that without the help of the Key Club, Builders Club, students, staff, cafeteria staff, administration, parents, individual donors and Kiwanis Club, this would not happen.

“It is the opportunity for all to come together, no strings attached, have an enjoyable delicious dinner and to give to thanks,” Dry added. “What could be better than that?”

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)