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Harvest Youth Board plans community meal

November 14, 2016

In the spirit of the season, The Harvest Foundation Youth Board is inviting area residents to dinner on Thanksgiving Eve.

From 2-5 p.m. Nov. 23, area residents are invited to go to Martinsville High School and eat dinner there or take their dinner home. They also may call 403-9070 to order meals that will be delivered if needed.

The meal is available to everyone at no charge, according to Max Pinkston, chairperson of the Youth Board.

“We expect to serve upwards of 2,000 meals” funded with $13,000 to $14,000 from the Youth Board budget, he said.

The menu will be a traditional Thanksgiving meal, he said, including turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing and more.

Scott Norman, who puts on the Richard’s Dinner free Christmas meal held locally each year, will help with the cooking, and other cooks are being selected, Pinkston said. They plan on being in the kitchen from Tuesday morning, Nov. 22, until Wednesday, Nov. 23.

He explained that Virginia Department of Health regulations forbids anyone under age 18 from cooking or cutting meat for such a meal, so that ruled out Youth Board members, who are local high school students. Instead, they will help with other aspects of the event, and volunteers also are being recruited.

A link on The Harvest Foundation website seeks volunteers to work in three shifts between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 23. They can choose to cook, clean, serve, greet guests, make food deliveries or perform other services, according to the form.

The form is available at

Pinkston said the estimate of 2,000 meals to be served came from previous community meals, so organizers expect to have plenty of food. Leftover uncooked food will be donated to Richard’s Dinner, and leftover cooked food will go to local police and fire departments, We Care and other groups, he said.

The meal is the “signature event” of the Youth Board, one which Pinkston hopes will be continued by future boards.

“We want to give back to the community, to help people in the community and bring people together as a whole,” Pinkston said.

It first was envisioned by the board last fall but by then, it was too late to pull it off in time for the 2015 holidays, he said.

Instead, Youth Board members volunteered with Richard’s Dinner to learn the ropes of staging such an event. They have been working on the Thanksgiving Eve dinner ever since.

Learning health department regulations was just one of those ropes.

“We had to meet with them, tell them our plans and they told us what regulations we had to follow,” Pinkston said.

He feared that the department would be skeptical that 13 young people wanted to provide the meal, but that was not the case.

“I actually have been impressed at how helpful everyone in the community is,” Pinkston said. “People liked the idea of doing it” and have donated their time and assistance.

Also, the five youth who graduated from high school and rotated off the Youth Board last spring will return to volunteer with the dinner, Pinkston said. “It will be a great thing to have them back,” he added.

The 13-member Youth Board is entirely student-run and focuses on youth-related issues in the area. It can award grants, create initiatives or develop projects related to youth issues. Board members also serve in an advisory capacity to the full Harvest Board of Directors on youth and community issues.

The Youth Board, which is supported by The Harvest Foundation and the Kiwanis Club, is in its second year. Now, “we know the ropes. We are engaging more grants” and will take part in the local Christmas Parade again this year, Pinkston said.

“The Youth Board is going well beyond my expectations. It’s amazing to see the voice that we have,” he added. “The Youth Board gives young people like us such a big voice. We can take it into the community and give back. We, as young people, can make a difference.”

DeWitt House, senior program officer with The Harvest Foundation and adviser to the Youth Board, said he has seen that sense of giving back among board members as they have planned the Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

“It may be helping an individual who may just be down on his luck. Hopefully it (the dinner) will be a spark to get them moving in the right direction and create an encouraging environment that allows them to look forward,” he said.

“I have observed how much they (Youth Board members) care about their community and how engaged they are in understanding that everyone has ups and downs. They are trying to provide a positive moment on that particular day,” he added.

The dinner also has taught the youth organizational skills, budgeting and how to make tough decisions, according to House.

“It has their name on it and they want it to be successful,” he said.

House said he hopes the dinner will show area residents that “today’s youth really are engaged and do want to be involved in our community, and understand that individuals involved with the Youth Board are a reflection of what I think are a tremendous group of young people who are coming forward and emerging as leaders.”

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