WURTLAND The first year the staff of Wurtland Elementary School hosted a community Thanksgiving dinner, they prepared enough turkey and trimmings for 200.
Six hundred people showed up.
That was in 2017. They barely had enough food to feed everyone, so the next year they planned for 1,000.
They served 1,200.
They are doing it again this year, on Wednesday, and this time they are going big: “My goal is I want our school to be able to feed 1,500 people, which is the equivalent of the population of Greenup, the county seat,” said principal Steve Branim, who will put in a good 15 hours that day from the time prep work starts at daybreak until the last table is wiped down and the last pan is washed and put away.
The dinner starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the elementary gymnasium and is open and free to all comers, Branim said.
It is an event that started to make sure students from less prosperous families got enough to eat during the Thanksgiving break, but has morphed into a community get-together that brings neighbors together for food and fellowship, he said.
“We have students in our building and in our district who are not always sure they will get a good meal . . . We ask for help all the time from the community and we think this is a good time to give back,” he said.
Many of those children and their families will show up, but so will others who will attend as much for the mingling and conversation as for the menu. “People come and hang around to see their neighbors and a lot of them eat and then get up and help serve dinners,” he said.
Servers also will package meals for people to take home — anyone who needs an extra meal, Branim said.
This year’s dinner will include 450 pounds of turkey breast, 300 pounds of ham and equivalent amounts of green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, gravy, bread and dessert.
The dinner is free and all costs are borne by donors. Wurtland’s cafeteria staff donate their time that day and virtually the entire teaching staff volunteers to help with preparation, serving and cleanup.
Cafeteria workers like cook Charisma Thompson want to help because they see hungry kids every day. “We do it to give back, to help those who need help,” Thompson said.
She and her fellow cook Wendy Woods and kitchen manager Sara Bush already are moving food into the kitchen in preparation for the feast.
“It’s a sight to see all the people here eating and helping. At one point last year you could barely walk, there were so many people coming through,” Branim said.
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