Youngstown elementary school collecting Thanksgiving turkeys for families

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The elementary school has offered Thanksgiving lunch to students and teachers for the past four years

Youngstown City Schools bus

Credit: WKBN

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Harding Elementary School is finding a new way to celebrate a Thanksgiving tradition.

The elementary school has offered Thanksgiving lunch to students and teachers for the past four years, but plans had to change this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all look forward to our Thanksgiving Feast each year,” Principal Teri Coward said. “This event helped us build relationships with our families. COVID-19 has caused us to rethink how we connect with our community. We were in a meeting and I shared my desire to give a turkey to approximately 25 to 30 families.”

After some brainstorming, Coward and Assistant Principal Maureen Donofrio planned to gift all 228 Harding families with a turkey.

“I whipped up a flier, posted it on Facebook, and within about a week, the generosity of friends, family and people that I don’t even know responded without hesitation. Youngstown people are the best. You say you need help and people rally,” said Donofrio.

Some community members offered 15 turkeys each, and a Youngstown City School District administrator hooked the school up with 100 turkeys.

“The response was overwhelming, and within a few days, we had enough turkeys to give to every family,” Coward said. “We are truly blessed to be able to do this during this unprecedented time.”

They are still accepting donated turkeys. Donation drop-off is 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 18.

The families will then pick up the frozen turkeys from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. that day.

It will be the same day as the district’s food giveaway and Youngstown Rotary’s Harding coat giveaway.

“Every scholar will leave Harding that day with a nice, new warm coat, and every Harding family will leave with groceries and their Thanksgiving turkey,” Donofrio said. “It’s our way of letting them know how much we will miss them this Thanksgiving and hope they can feel the love and appreciation we have for our scholars and families.”

“The Harding Thanksgiving feast is a wonderful tradition and I’m so happy that Principal Coward, Assistant Principal Donofrio and the Harding staff found a way to keep it going in some form, despite the pandemic,” CEO Justin Jennings said. “We appreciate the generosity of the community as well. Youngstown is a special place.”

If you’re interested in donating, reach out to Donofrio at Maureen.donofrio@Youngstown.k12.oh.us.

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