Erinely Moran sat in the Cumming Elementary School cafeteria on Monday for an early Thanksgiving.
Moran was there with her mother, brother and two sisters among the almost 800 people who attended the community meal hosted by the school.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to have families unite that don’t have the chance to do this on their own,” Moran said. “It’s good for them to come together, because not everybody has the opportunity to have a big dinner like other families do.”
It was the second consecutive year Cumming Elementary has hosted the event that’s meant to bring together the school’s community.
The idea for the dinner came last year after the school’s cafeteria manager, Marcia Outlier, was worried the school wouldn’t be able to have an annual meal for students due to a short-handed staff.
Assistant principal Jordan Livermore proposed pulling together different parts of the community to make the dinner happen, so the school staff, volunteers and local organizations all pitched in to feed almost 700 people a traditional Thanksgiving-style dinner.
The school took the same approach this year, only it needed more help. Members of Browns Bridge Church helped the school carve 52 turkeys on Sunday. Local restaurants donated butter and salt and pepper. School staff and other churches prepared all the side items, so that every person in attendance had their pick of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese and a roll, along with several choices for dessert. The Big Creek PTO also provided more than 500 coats to give out.
As Michelle Merrell, a first-grade teacher at the school, walked in Monday, she stopped to help the member of a local church drop off a truck full of mashed potatoes.
“I think (the event) makes a good connection between school and home to do things like this outside of educating the kids,” Merrell said.
Amalina Hernandez, a kindergarten teacher at Cumming Elementary, had no problem using her Monday off during Thanksgiving break to volunteer at the event.
“There’s no other way I would want to spend a Monday off,” Hernandez said, “just serving the community and seeing all my students and their parents. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of it.”
Livermore surveyed the scene on Monday. He saw almost 80 volunteers helping in various ways, and almost 800 people sitting together to eat a Thanksgiving meal.
“This was a great way to get parents in, from all walks of life, to get to know one another and to get to know the staff and the school,” Livermore said. “… Also, a lot of our families struggle to feed their families over long breaks, so they get a free meal out of this as well.”
Bradley Wiseman contributed to this report.