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Giving thanks: WHS students serve their community

Brianna Hatch

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A day full of colorful hand-turkeys, the extravagant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, reunions with crazy extended family members, more carbs than you could possibly imagine, “friendly” football games among siblings, and the pinnacle of it all: Thanksgiving dinner. But beneath this lies the true meaning of this timeless holiday—the importance of taking time to be grateful for the gifts that are often taken for granted.

For various students and clubs at WHS, this thoughtfulness is displayed through community service projects they take part in late November. “Thanksgiving is a time for family to come together, and even though the community isn’t a ‘family,’ it is,” senior Emma Wolynez said. “It’s important to be there for each other and help one another, especially on a holiday based off of gratitude.”

Wolynez is the president of the Community Service Club, which extends its services each year around Thanksgiving to help others in a festive fall fashion. They volunteer at the Turkey Trot race, which will take place in Tamaques Park on Nov. 24 this year, by face painting for the competitors and their families. You can also catch the club raking leaves at local homes for donations.

The Key Club is another organization that pays special tribute to community members around Thanksgiving. “We will be writing letters of gratitude in anticipation of Thanksgiving to members of the WHS community who do not typically receive enough verbal appreciation for their efforts,” senior Matt Paden, president of the club, said.

WHS’s cornucopia of community service does not stop with the clubs, however. Senior Taylor Venturino volunteers at Agape, a youth-run soup kitchen that occurs every Wednesday evening at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, so it falls every year on the day before Thanksgiving, making that volunteer experience extra special.

“Since students have a half-day on the day before Thanksgiving, we actually get to help cook the meal that they are about to serve,” Venturino said. “So, on that day we serve a Thanksgiving-themed meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie, and more. Last year, we made little cards for each guest saying ‘thank you for being a part of our Agape family, we appreciate you,’ which was super cute and put everyone in a good mood.”

Through his Boy Scout troop, senior James McCutcheon engages the community in the Scouting for Food drive. McCutcheon and other scouts drop off bags with slips of paper asking residents to fill them with non-perishables, and then return a week later to collect the donations, taking them to the food bank.

In the eyes of these students, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to display kindness towards others. “I think it’s important to [serve the community] around Thanksgiving because when you’re sitting around the dinner table with the turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has those same luxuries,” McCutcheon said. “We have so much to be thankful for, so I feel it’s our duty to give others more things to be thankful for as well.”

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