They weren’t writing lesson plans or grading papers, but many teachers at a north Forsyth elementary school came to work Tuesday.
They and their families volunteered to prepare and serve a free Thanksgiving meal for the Chestatee Elementary community.
Fifth-grade teacher Craig Ahrens first had the idea for the school community meal last year.
He said only about 10 students and their families ended up coming to school for lunch in 2011, but another 20 or so families received meals via delivery.
This year, he said, organizers decided to shift the time frame from 2 to 4 p.m. to 4 to 6 p.m. in hopes of drawing more.
Principal Polly Tennies said about 100 people were expected to attend the meal, which teachers used as a way to support the community.
“If you know anything at all about Chestatee, you know that this is just how we roll up here,” she said. “This is a school that’s filled with love and it always, I think, flows out into the community and you can see that with any of the projects that are done here.”
Ahrens said he and his fellow teachers wanted to show students that they’re cared for even when they’re not in the classroom.
“What we’re really trying to do is show our community that we as teachers are here for them, we support them and we love them,” he said. “We’re really trying to do this from the inside out. We’re trying to do it from our staff to them.”
Ahrens said teachers cooked many of the dishes, as well as collected donations from area businesses and neighbors.
“Most of the food is donated by families in the school who said, ‘We can’t come, but we want to donate.’ And local business partners have donated, so we’ve gathered quite a bit,” he said.
Among the offerings were 12 turkeys and numerous side items and homemade desserts.
“We’ve got mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, dressing, green bean casserole, corn soufflé and all kinds of desserts laid out,” he said.
Leftovers would be donated to area fire stations and nonprofit organizations.
Tennies said the event makes her proud of her staff.
“Somehow we manage to find the teachers with the biggest hearts and they come to work here,” she said.
Ahrens said he and his colleagues are happy to support the school, which sees more financial need than some in the county.
The school is one of just a few in the local system that receives federal Title One funding due to the number of its students who take part in the free and reduced lunch program.
“This is really about taking care of our community because they deserve it,” Ahrens said. “They deserve chances just like everybody else. They deserve to know they’re loved and they’re thought about, and that’s really what this is.”