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Washington Education Association packs Thanksgiving meals

Photo courtesy of Angela Taylor

These volunteers packed Thanksgiving meals Nov. 24 at Fareway in Washington. The meal-packing event was a joint venture between the Washington Education Association and the Action Club at Washington County Development Center. Pictured are, front row: Hailey Hotchkiss and daughters (first time volunteers; works at Stewart); middle row, on right: Arlene Hauser (first time volunteer; works at Stewart; third in from right), Angela Taylor (WEA Thanksgiving Meal Chairperson), Angie Shrader (Middle School turkey representative; long time volunteer, end of row on right); back row: Mary Gilchrist (WRAP turkey rep), Lisa Hixson (WEA Treasurer, longtime volunteer; third from the left), Dana Rembold (longtime volunteer; second in from right), Dave Waite (Fareway store manager; longtime volunteer; end of back row on right).
Photo courtesy of Angela Taylor These volunteers packed Thanksgiving meals Nov. 24 at Fareway in Washington. The meal-packing event was a joint venture between the Washington Education Association and the Action Club at Washington County Development Center. Pictured are, front row: Hailey Hotchkiss and daughters (first time volunteers; works at Stewart); middle row, on right: Arlene Hauser (first time volunteer; works at Stewart; third in from right), Angela Taylor (WEA Thanksgiving Meal Chairperson), Angie Shrader (Middle School turkey representative; long time volunteer, end of row on right); back row: Mary Gilchrist (WRAP turkey rep), Lisa Hixson (WEA Treasurer, longtime volunteer; third from the left), Dana Rembold (longtime volunteer; second in from right), Dave Waite (Fareway store manager; longtime volunteer; end of back row on right).
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WASHINGTON — A group of a few dozen people went to Fareway in Washington Sunday night, Nov. 24, to pack Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

It marked the 15th year the Washington Education Association has partnered with Fareway to pack Thanksgiving meals. The group of volunteers packed 112 bags with items such as a can of cranberry sauce, green beans, yams, corn, stuffing, cheese cake, gravy and a bag of potatoes. Cold items will be added to the bags on Tuesday night when the recipients pick them up at the store. Those items include a tossed salad mix, a bag of carrots, rolls and a frozen turkey roll.

The number of families served is just under 112. Each bag of food can feed up to five people, and families with more than five members receive two bags.

Angela Taylor, a resource teacher at the Washington High School and who coordinates the event, said the WEA tries to get all staff in the district involved in the fundraiser by donating money or time. That includes the teachers, staff, secretaries, cooks, custodians, administrators and the parents, too. Some student organizations donate money as well, such as Washington Middle School’s student congress.

Taylor mentioned that the WEA has always partnered with Fareway, and that the store’s manager Dave Waite is good at looking for deals on Thanksgiving items even months before the event.

“Sometimes he starts ordering the food in the summer, knowing he can get it at a better price,” Taylor said.

Volunteers gathered at Fareway Sunday night where food items were in their separate stacks. Washington school staff were joined by members of the Action Club from the Washington County Development Center (WCDC), and some of Fareway’s employees chip in, too. People took a bag and went around the room collecting items until their bag had the full complement of Thanksgiving goodies. This year, the volunteers packed all the bags in just 20 minutes.

Taylor said the event began 15 years ago because the teachers and staff wanted to shine a light on American Education Week (every year in November), which was not widely recognized in the district at that time.

“We had a meeting and discussed the idea of giving back to the community that we worked for,” Taylor said. “We knew that hunger was an issue, and it’s an even greater need now than it was 15 years ago.”

Taylor remarked that both the middle school and high school have food pantries and care closets. Lisa Hixson, WEA treasurer and who was there to help Sunday night, said the food pantries are in the school buildings themselves.

“There’s definitely a need,” Hixson said.

The school district selects the families to receive meals. Taylor said the school is careful to keep the identities of the families under wraps. On some occasions, school guidance counselors or administrators will suggest certain families be added to the list if they know the family is going through a rough time.

“It’s a nice pick-me-up,” Taylor said.

Hixson explained that families receive a paper asking them if they would like a meal. In some cases, families decline because they felt they were able to get by this year, and wanted the meal to go to someone who needed it more.

“Sometimes I get a phone call from a family who is extremely thankful, too,” Taylor said.

Hixson added, “On Tuesday night [when the meals are distributed] we hear so many ‘thank yous.’”

“And see a lot of big smiles,” Taylor said.

Taylor said even some of the retired teachers in the area donate to the cause because they feel so strongly about it.

“One year, a lady wrote a note to us saying, ‘I was a kid who received something similar, and I want to pay it forward to another family,’” Taylor said.