For many people, Thanksgiving usually includes the 5 Fs: a four-day weekend, football games, family, and frantic Black Friday shopping. However, without the help of an entire community, spearheaded by the Bear Lake High School Student Council, that final F would be very difficult for some: feasting.
For more than 25 years now, the student council has raised money and put together the ingredients for full dinners, and this year, more than 73 families celebrated traditional Thanksgiving feasts of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, cranberries, pies, and rolls.
The journey began in October when senior student council officers donned their best clothing and travelled the Bear Lake Valley asking for donations. After raising more than $2,000, they began soliciting names of families who could use help for Thanksgiving.
Area schools, churches, Wards, neighbors, and the local SEICAA (South East Idaho Community Action Agency) all referred people.
“Being one of the delivers of the Turkey Dinners this year has been an awesome experience to see the real need of our community,” said Shilo Waechtler, who both referred families and delivered the meals. “It’s such an amazing feeling to see people’s reactions when they have so little and we were able to give them something so needed.”
David Ream baked and donated more than 45 dozen rolls (yes, that’s more than 540 rolls), and Broulims helped by gathering the turkeys and other ingredients. The five high school student body officers, Emily Goostree, Ryan Hunt, Dalton Moss, Riley Hayes, and David Lusk, picked up food for 16 families on Monday, November 25, and delivered it to Tracy Schumacher at the SEICAA office in Montpelier.
“The Thanksgiving program that the high school provides has not only given families food for the holidays but has also given them a sense of relief, because they no longer have to worry about the burden of how they are going to afford this meal for their families,” Schumacher said. “Families are able to better focus on spending time together and just enjoying one another during this time.”
Schumacher continued, “One family in particular has no income at this time and recently their car has quit working. They had no idea how they were going to afford the food and no transportation to possibly go to another family member. We delivered a Thanksgiving meal to them and they were almost in tears when it arrived. They were extremely thankful that this program is available to help those in need.”
Tuesday was an even bigger day as the officers picked up food for another 57 families and organized it so when the volunteers came to pick them up, everything was ready. By the time it was all done, more than 300 people were able to feast on Thursday, due to the hard work and generosity of their neighbors, which is perhaps the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
“On a personal note, I cannot thank [everyone] enough for all of the families that you have helped over the years with this program, “Schumacher added. “The burden that is put on families to provide holiday meals can be extraordinary and this alleviates so many of those fears so that they are able to focus on what the holidays are truly about. Family! I hope this program will be available in the years to come. Thank you so much!!”