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High school students ready to serve their community for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2018

The cool temperatures didn’t stop the Harvest Foundation Youth Board members from hefting oversized box after oversized box off a delivery truck parked in front of Martinsville High School at dusk on Tuesday.

They weren’t unloading school supplies or new technology gadgets for the classroom - instead, they hauled turkey, stuffing, ham, cookies and cranberries to the cafeteria, all to serve their community.

The students then unfolded table cloths, placed floral centerpieces on each table and created a buffet-style serving line in preparation for the group’s biggest event of the year, the third annual Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

The first year the board held their Thanksgiving Eve dinner, they served 1,800 people. Last year, the volunteer student group made 2,700 meals. This year, they’re going for an even 3,000.

The students arrived at Martinsville High School on Tuesday, where they set up for the annual event. DeWitt House, advisor for the Harvest Foundation Youth Board, not only delegated locations for the thousands of meals the board ordered for the dinner, but also carried boxes from the delivery truck right alongside the students.

“They need to know I’m as committed as they are,” House said.

While the advisor lent a helping hand, he gave the credit for the event to the students.

“This is their dinner,” House said. “They know what they’re doing. They planned it.”

Adrian Hylton, a student at Magna Vista High School, looked forward to helping with the meal for the second year in a row.

“It’s our signature event and we can see the impact it’s having on the community,” Hylton said.

The event started as a meal for those who didn’t have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. Now, it’s a tradition many community members look forward to each year.

“People look forward to the fellowship,” said Latala Hodges, communications director for the Harvest Foundation. “It’s a way to give back and get into the Thanksgiving spirit. You feel really, really good about being here.”

Hodges praised the youth board for hosting such a well-attended event three years in a row.

“The students always do a wonderful job of organizing,” Hodges said. “They tell the adults what to do. It’s great to see them feel empowered. They run the event and they do a wonderful job.”

Even though every youth board member still attends high school, age doesn’t play a factor in lending someone a helping hand.

“I think it doesn’t matter how old you are,” said Jacob Tisdale, a student at Carlisle School. “You just have to have the determination to make a difference, which everyone on the youth board does.”

When people arrive at the Thanksgiving Eve dinner, they enjoy a festive, traditional holiday spread. Items on the buffet-style menu include turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls and cookies.

“It’s really similar to what I have at home,” said Elli McGovern, a student at Martinsville High School. “I think it’s cool that we get to make that for other people.”

From 1 to 4 p.m., youth board members will serve local residents a warm meal with all of the trimmings.

“We will be serving food and talking to the people as they come in,” said Zariah Scales, a Magna Vista High School student. “You can come in and eat or you can do a takeout order.”

For those who called ahead a few days before the dinner, volunteer delivery drivers will take meals to individuals’ homes. By Tuesday, 1,978 people pre-ordered meals.

“We want to serve the whole community, but some people can’t make it out here,” Tisdale said. “We want to have a huge impact on the whole community, not just the people who can make it out here.”

The 13 youth board members – with students representing Bassett High School, Magna Vista High School, Martinsville High School and Carlisle School – look forward to meeting everyone who walks through Martinsville High School’s cafeteria doors this afternoon.

“I like the impact we’re able to make on the community we live in,” McGovern said. “People come in and they enjoy themselves and being served. Being able to help people – that’s what it’s all about.”

Walk-ins are welcome to attend the Thanksgiving Eve dinner at Martinsville High School, located at 351 Commonwealth Blvd E in Martinsville.

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