WHITMAN — Residents of all ages have rolled up their sleeves to contribute food, money and time ensuring that neighbors who are alone or in financial need are able to celebrate a joyous and bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.
“Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday for us here in the United States of America,” said Holy Ghost Church Pastor the Rev. James Mahoney before an annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors at the Spellman Council Knights of Columbus Saturday, Nov. 19. “It’s not only become a national holiday, but I would ask everyone to make it sort of a religious holiday, as well … perhaps you could share with your tablemates what you are grateful to God for … having gratitude in your heart is a beautiful thing.”
The Rev. Thomas Stanton, the parochial vicar of Holy Ghost Church then offered the blessing. After the amen’s, a woman’s voice was heard saying, “Go, Pats!”
During the 42nd annual K of C event — five days before the 106th renewal of the Thanksgiving football game vs. the Abington Green Wave on W-H’s home turf — members of the Panthers football team joined forces with Whitman Police officers to serve turkey dinners to more than 320 area senior citizens in about 9 ½ minutes.
Whitman Council on Aging Director Barbara Garvey thanked the Knights for the event.
“Today, each of us will be enjoying this lovely Thanksgiving dinner with about 320 new and old friends,” Garvey said in her remarks. “The Whitman Knights of Columbus Council has always been a very kind and generous friend to this community and, in particular to our seniors.”
Pantry and paws
Conley Elementary School students had gathered to sing, recite poems, and express what they were thankful for during the annual Thanksgiving basket assembly on Thursday, Nov. 17. Superintendent of Schoools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner was one of the guests who attended the Conley gathering.
Bob Hogan of the St. Vincent DePaul Society accepted the school’s food pantry donation and thanked the staff and students for the great holiday show they saw.
“There is nothing we can do without you,” Hogan said. “All we do is give the food out but it is donated by all the so many wonderful people and businesses in Whitman.”
Recently, on a visit to a food pantry in Columbus, Ohio, Hogan said he shared stories of how giving the school system is in Whitman.
“I haven’t found a pantry yet that benefits from schools like the Whitman pantry. When I tell them what you do (at the Conley School ) … you are awesome. Many people will have a Thanksgiving dinner this year and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Students also give to support animals in the town’s shelter through the school’s Pennies for Paws program proving that every penny really does count, gathering enough coins to donate more than $500 to Whitman Animal Control. There were also matched donations from a AEW Capital Management donated $1500 as a matched donation and private donation from a Conley family.
“You reached deep into those pockets and found more pennies,” said Principal Karen Downey in praising her students, saying they were not going to believe how many pennies they raised for the Whitman Animal Shelter.
At Duval Elementary School, fifth-graders revived the holiday basket tradition after a hiatus of about eight years with an assembly Nov. 17.
The entire student body as well as faculty and staff gathered in the Duval cafetorium — as the fifth-graders participating in the program sat on the stage behind the 15 laundry baskets brimming with side dishes, stuffing mix, table cloths and napkins for a Thanksgiving dinner for families in need.
“All of you have helped out some of our community in the town of Whitman and we wanted to take minute so that we could have all of you be part of the process of handing over all of these food items that are going to help somebody on Thanksgiving,” Principal Julie McKillop said to the students. “Doesn’t it feel good to help other people?”
Cheryl Happeny of the Duval PTO said teacher Erin Smith had suggested the school revive the tradition as a way to help the community. Letters were sent out to students’ families seeking donations of “Thanksgiving-types of foods” and supplies for the baskets.
Whitman Food Pantry volunteers Dorothy Conlon and James Davidson addressed the children, thanking them for their thoughtful gesture for neighbors in need.
“I used to work in the kitchen [at Duval] and I was the cook and manager for about 22 years,” Conlon said. “Shortly after I retired, I started volunteering at the Whitman Food Pantry. This event makes me very, very happy to see all these wonderful baskets full of goodies for people that are not as fortunate as we are.”
She told the students that their baskets would be augmented with a turkey and some vegetables for distribution, which began Nov. 17.
“It does my heart really good to see all of you and what you’ve done here today,” said Davidson, who has been a food pantry volunteer since 1984. “We will be helping approximately 150 families in town with Thanksgiving dinner.”
Last year, the Whitman Food Pantry aided more than 1,300 families and more than 3,200 individuals during the course of the year.
“What you’re doing here is terrific and we hope that you will remember this day for the rest of your life, so that wherever you go in this world you will think back on this day and how you helped someone in need,” he said.
McKillop said the students’ suggestions for other ways the school can help the community would be welcome in her office mailbox.
“Write me a letter and we’ll see what we can do,” she said. “When you go home this weekend I want you to think about what else could we do as a community to make somebody else out there smile a little bit bigger because of our actions.”