On Monday, students from West Edgecombe Middle School met in the cafeteria to pack boxes with a combination of sweet potato pies, corn muffin mixes, boxes of stuffing and, of course, turkeys.
These packages are going to Edgecombe County families in need, including some from the students’ own school, as well as families from Princeville Elementary School, which was closed due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
“We have a lot of families who were already economically disadvantaged before the flood, and then you put any kind of natural disaster on top of that and it just devastates an area,” said Kelsey Ballard, the assistant principal of West Edgecombe Middle School.
The students packing the boxes Monday were mostly representatives of the West Edgecombe Middle School’s student government, but the collection effort has been a school-wide task. Students donated canned goods throughout the year. Families donated money. Even the community got involved. As I stood there, Jim Vickers and John Edmondson from the National Wild Turkey Federation, walked in with turkeys in hand to turn over to the kids.
The donations go to people like Lynika Silver. She has a son at West Edgecombe Middle and was one of the recipients of a box Monday.
“Miss Henderson let me know they were giving out food for today,” Silver explained. “She offered help for my family, because I got five kids. I told her I appreciate the help and I accepted it. It helps a lot for the holiday.”
Miss Henderson is Yolanda Ray-Henderson, the school counselor. She explained that Monday’s project was an extension of one that started last year.
“We started this program where we wanted to feed families a turkey dinner, somebody who was maybe a little less fortunate,” she said.
Last year the school served about 25 families. This year it more than doubled that target to 55.
“Everyone should have something to eat on Thanksgiving,” said eighth-grade class representative Tazion Bains.
School president Skyler Hodge said he took his duty as school president to mean that he should be as helpful as he can to the school and anybody who needs help.
“Some people, they don’t have as much as other people do, and they should, because everybody should be treated exactly the same.”
As the students finished packing the boxes and cleared out of the cafeteria, I asked the last two volunteers, one student and one adult, to tell me what they were grateful for this Thanksgiving. Below you can watch what they said.