The 2021 Thanksgiving Basket Drive was a record-breaking success! Jesuit High School served 305 families in need this year, as hundreds of Jesuit students, families, and staff packed the record-number of "baskets" – the large boxes filled with frozen turkeys, all the sides, and everything else needed for an abundant, complete family meal – on a glorious Sunday (Nov. 21) on Himes Ave.
The beneficiaries of the Thanksgiving Basket Drive are food-insecure families affiliated with eight local Boys & Girls Clubs – 30 families at each club – plus another 65 families connected to the Migrant Education Program
"The response of the school community every year is inspiring," said Andy Wood '92, Jesuit's Director of Community Service. "Each year, somehow, surpasses the previous year. I am continually amazed by the generosity and willingness to give of themselves of the students, families, and staff at Jesuit."
It was a total team effort by the school community:
· The students raised a record $18,853 in homeroom collections, used to purchase all of the food (except the frozen turkeys) and supplies plus a gift card for each basket.
· The Dads' Club collected a record haul of frozen turkeys with 452. The nearly 147 extra turkeys were provided to local charities and food banks.
· The Mothers' Club collected kitchen towels and oven mitts which were included in all 305 baskets. The Mothers' Club and Dads' Club collections came from Jesuit families during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up last week.
· Roughly $24,000 total was collected for the Thanksgiving Basket Drive, with about $7,000 remaining after all costs were covered. That was split into two $3,500 donations to Pinellas Hope and Feeding Tampa Bay. FTB indicated that $25 provides a family of four a Thanksgiving holiday meal, meaning the basket drive was able to provide roughly an additional 160 holiday meals through FTB.
Sunday began, as it does each year, with Mass inside the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was the first Mass in the chapel since the new statues of the Four Evangelists were installed last week.
At the conclusion of Mass, the estimated 600 volunteers grabbed breakfast in the cafeteria and then headed outside to Oliva Courtyard to begin the process of making the boxes and filling them up with a robust holiday meal. When finished, they delivered them to the eight Boys & Girls Clubs across the region, and to migrant families in east Hillsborough County. Each meal was provided for a specific family.
"Just a few years ago we surpassed 200 baskets for the first time, and it was only two years ago that all of the packing still took place in the cafeteria," Wood said. "Now we're filling up Oliva Courtyard with hundreds of volunteers, all here on this day to serve others, and we're able to provide donations that serve additional families beyond the 305 who received a basket from Jesuit. It is truly amazing."
Wood had kicked off the basket drive at Convocation in October, along with the community liaison for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Ricky Gallon. Wood set a goal of $500 raised for each homeroom, and half of Jesuit's homerooms eclipsed the goal. The homeroom of Dr. Angelo Pastore and Matt Thompson surpassed $2,000 to win the homeroom challenge for collecting the most money for the Thanksgiving Basket Drive.
While the Dads Club provided the turkey and the Mothers' Club the kitchen towels and oven mitts, the student collections covered the cost of all of the sides (stuffing, applesauce, vegetables, green beans, gravy, rolls, mac 'n cheese, etc.) and supplies (cooking pans + $20 Walmart gift cards).
Please see below three photo slideshows, the first from Sunday's packing and deliveries, the second from the food delivery to campus on Friday, and the third of the Dads' Club and Mothers' Club collections last week.