Student's Thanksgiving meal project helps families in need

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Staci Herman

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


For the second year in a row, Central student Staci Herman is thinking about others around the holidays. After the success of last year’s Hunger Banquet, which informed students and the community about the lives of those affected by food and water insecurity in third world nations, Herman chose a more localized approach this year, with a Thanksgiving meal drive for area families experiencing similar issues. 


The decision to localize her independent ag project was because Herman personally knows families who struggle. It’s to stress the importance of helping those who are a “little less fortunate.” 


At the beginning of the project, Herman wanted to feed as many families as possible. The first step was getting the families willing to participate. For this, Herman turned to Central’s family liaison, Heather Lechtenberg, who assisted in “identifying families and provided her with the number of adults and children in each family to keep the family name confidential.” 


The final number of families came in at nine, and totaled 42 people in all. 


With this number in mind, Herman began acquiring items and funds to fulfill the project. She looked to her fellow students, going to every advisory class and handing out the list of items needed to fulfill the task, and even turned it into a contest, to “make it fun.” Each item was given a point value and the class that brought in the most items would receive candy bars. 


On the list of items were all the Thanksgiving staples such as ham or turkey, canned corn, cranberry sauce, instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls and gravy. 


But even well-intentioned projects meet adversity, and for Herman, securing the items necessary to feed the families was more of a challenge than she anticipated. 


“I was not expecting it to be as hard as it was to get people to bring in food,” she said. 


As the project finished its first week, Herman had only received enough items for a partial meal for one family. Never one to give up, due to what she stated is her unwillingness to “break a promise,” Herman looked for ways to solve the problem. 


One solution was to expand the project beyond the high school, to include the elementary as well. Almost immediately, supplies began rolling in. The project was also opened up to cash donations, which reached over $240. 


As a result, the project received more than enough food to feed the nine families and the leftovers were donated to the local food shelf, a decision that was all Herman’s. 


“In the end, the students and staff really pulled through for me, but I was not expecting it to be as hard as it was,” she said. “I worked as hard as I did to make it successful because I am a very determined person in general and never give up on something that I’m being challenged with.” 


“It was important to me that I got the families the food they were expecting because I promised them a meal and I couldn’t deal with the idea of breaking a family’s heart by not supplying a meal they may need,” Herman added. 


As the supplies and donations came in, Herman simply had to buy what else was needed, and then she stored the hams and turkeys in the school freezer until it was time to package and deliver them. While Herman assisted with packaging and loading the meals, it was Mrs. Lechtenberg who delivered them, to preserve the anonymity of the families receiving the meals. 


The project demonstrates the adage, “with a little help from my friends,” who without Herman could not have accomplished this project. But it also demonstrated the will to succeed and perseverance through adversity, especially when people are relying on you.


Additionally, the success of the project was important for Herman because it’s about helping others, rather than self-promotion. 


“These projects benefit me because it gives me a good feeling knowing that I am doing things to better my community that I live in,” Herman said. “I do these projects because I like to help people in any way I can. Everyone struggles with something at some point in their life and we can all use a little helping hand at times. I do these projects in hopes that I am able to help as many people as possible and that, if people see someone struggling, this will encourage them to lend a helping hand, even if it is just something small.”

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