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Filling the tummies, filling a need at Lawrence Middle School

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Two days before the most American of holidays, more than 200 Lawrence Middle School students and family members gathered in the gymnasium for the annual Thanksgiving feast on Nov. 26.

Organized by the middle school’s student government club a free turkey meal that included: mashed potatoes, corn, string beans, cranberry sauce, chocolate pudding, macaroni and cheese was served, along with beverages.

Middle school teachers Barbara Risi and Cheri Donnelly-McQuillan are the club’s advisers and help coordinate the feast. “We sent flyers around the school about two weeks ago to all the students,” Risi said. “Students were than given permission slips that needed to be signed by a parent or guardian.” Risi added that a $3 donation was required ahead of time.

Donnelly-McQuillan boasted that this year’s attendance was the highest she has ever seen. “In my near 30 years of teaching at Lawrence, this is the biggest turnout I’ve seen at this event,” Donnelly-McQuillan said. “It has gone great this year and with the large turnout, it shows how important this event is.”

School cafeteria staff and some parents served the food, which was appreciated by eighth-grader Ariana Watson. “The food was great,” she said. “It’s also great to see how many people showed up today.”

Sarah Hayes, a Lawrence resident who has three children in district schools, helped coordinate the donations of additional desserts for the feast. “I started reaching out to other parents about bringing more food to the feast,” she said. “In total, we raised roughly $300 and brought 200 cupcakes, three trays of baked cookies and a few other items such as brownies. Since we currently don’t have a PTA at the school, I figured that this is the least I can do.”

In addition to the meals served at the feast, 60 turkey dinners were raffled off as prizes. “These turkey dinners were privately donated,” Donnelly-McQuillan said. “They were donated to students whose families need them the most. Unfortunately they’re not able to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”

In between eating, there was time for fun and games. Assistant Principal Brett Kornblum hosted an Lawrence Middle School-themed game of “Family Feud” as he asked students questions about their teachers. Ray Ban sunglasses and school merchandise such as T-shirts and backpacks were awarded as prizes for correct answers.

While the food filled everyone’s bellies middle school Principal Willis Perry believes that the Thanksgiving feast fills a vital life role. “This event embodies family,” he said. “It reminds us how important it is to have friends and family in our lives.”