Thanksgiving came early for hundreds of less fortunate Hamilton families Monday, complete with generous servings of well-wishes provided by the city school district and a local church.
The second annual “Give Thanks Thanksgiving Dinner” invited about 1,000 low-income families in the city — and for the first time provided busing — to have a sit-down feast at Wilson Middle School.
Paid for by private donations and volunteer efforts that saw the school’s cafeteria open into early evening, the event’s creator looked over the invited families — many with small children — and said he is happy to be of service to the community beyond Hamilton City Schools’ campuses.
“This is my way of giving back to the community,” said Wilson teacher Kevin Hutson.
But he is quick to spread the credit, saying the event, which was held Monday because of the school district’s short holiday week, is a collective and heart-felt reach out to those in and outside of the traditional school community.
“It’s about building a community with the teachers, with the people outside of school and getting to know the people we don’t see on a regular basis and we get to see them in a different avenue,” said Hutson.
Hutson created and coordinated invites sent out via the city schools to families.
Pastor James Wynn III, of Hamilton’s Bethel Baptist Church, said the communal dinner, which included dozens of teacher and student volunteers, symbolizes “a coming together as God so ordered it in his word” to help those less fortunate.
The church is the main donor of food for the event, which this year included the donation by Hamilton City Schools of school buses to bring families to and from Wilson Middle School for the event.
Tony Orr, superintendent of 10,000-student school district, watched the dinner celebration unfold and said he found it moving and so much more telling about the character of the city school community than any academic report on its schools.
“What I appreciate about events like this is this isn’t about Hamilton City Schools’ report card. It’s about Hamilton City Schools’ heart and that’s what we are about,” said Orr.