The chilly rain couldn't put a damper on the Jesuit school community's enthusiasm for the Thanksgiving Basket Drive. Sunday (Nov. 20) at Jesuit, hundreds of students, families, and staff, undeterred by the elements, packed a record-equaling number of "baskets" – the large boxes filled with frozen turkeys, all the sides, and everything else needed for an abundant, complete family meal.
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, 305 families total.
"It was an incredible day that completed another amazing Thanksgiving Basket Drive," said Andy Wood '92, Jesuit's Director of Community Service. "The response of the school community every year is inspiring, and seeing how everyone embraced the challenge on Sunday – I am continually amazed by the generosity and willingness to give of themselves for the Thanksgiving Basket Drive."
It was a total team effort by the school community:
· The students raised more than $22,000, mostly via homeroom collections. It was used to purchase all of the food (except the frozen turkeys) and supplies plus a Walmart gift card for each basket. In addition, the extra money raised will be presented to Feeding Tampa Bay on Nov. 22, which will multiply the number of families impacted by the drive.
· The Dads' Club collected 405 frozen turkeys, their second straight year eclipsing the 400 mark. Extra turkeys were provided to local charities and food banks.
· The Mothers' Club collected serving spoons which were included in all 305 baskets, as well as over mitts and kitchen towels. The Mothers' Club and Dads' Club collections came from Jesuit families during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up last week.
Sunday began, as it does each year, with Mass inside the Chapel of the Holy Cross celebrated by Fr. Angel Rivera-Fals, S.J. At the conclusion of Mass, the estimated 600 volunteers walked outside and were greeted by a cold rain. The weather caused Wood to have to make major adjustments to the set-up for the basket packing. Typically, it all takes place in Oliva Courtyard. Sunday, however, all of the large cardboard boxes (the "baskets") and gift cards were underneath the covered walkway outside Gonzmart Hall, while everything that came in boxes, such as the stuffing and macaroni and cheese, was inside the cafeteria or the covered area between Building 1 and the cafeteria. I. Only the items in plastic and metal containers (vegetables, applesauce, gravy, etc.) were in the courtyard exposed to the elements.
Many grabbed breakfast in the cafeteria and then began the process of making the boxes – lots of extra packing tape was used this year to secure the wet boxes – and then 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.
"This is the first time we've really been impacted by the weather, and it took a great team effort to adjust the set-up and then to work through the rain," Wood said. "There was a passion for service today. Everyone got wet, everyone was cold, and everyone just stepped up. It was inspiring."
Wood had kicked off the basket drive at Convocation in October, and the community liaison for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Ricky Gallon, gave a Convocation presentation in November, sharing with the students the tremendous impact of their generosity. Wood set a goal of $500 raised for each homeroom, and the homeroom of math teachers Ms. Nicole Sutton and Mr. Corey Perich raised $1,597 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 serving spoons, kitchen towels, and oven mitts, the student collections covered the cost of all of the sides (stuffing, applesauce, vegetables, green beans, corn, gravy, rolls, mac 'n cheese, etc.) and supplies (cooking pans + $20 Walmart gift cards).
Please see Jesuit's main social media accounts on Facebook (Jesuit High School of Tampa), Instagram (@jesuittigers) and Twitter (@JesuitTampaFL) for photos from Sunday's packing and deliveries, as well as from Friday's food delivery to campus on Friday, and of the Dads' Club and Mothers' Club collections last week.
Please view below a video from Sunday's basket packing.