For the last 14 or so years, the students and staff of Barker High School in the Central Valley School District have partnered together to make Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday, even for those students who may not get one outside of school.
Jana McKnight, one of the teachers at the school at 13313 E. Broadway Ave., said she started a tradition of collecting food baskets and cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the students when she realized some of the students were probably not getting a dinner at home. She also thought it would be a community builder for the students at the alternative school.
“I think I had a wild hair one day,” she joked.
McKnight said that when the dinners first started, she probably served about 25 students. This year, she expects about 120 – not too shabby, since the teachers at Barker take the food and cook it in their own homes and bring it back to the school for their dinner on Wednesday.
Before the dinner, there is a flurry of activity.
Principal Kerri Ames said that on Sunday, members of the school’s Key Club and leadership students will visit One Church in Spokane Valley to collect donated food and load it into vans. The students and representatives from the church will deliver the food to Barker on Monday, where it will be assembled into 45 food baskets for families of the students and some of the families in the neighborhood.
Tuesday will bring visits from the Candlelighters of the Inland Northwest, who will speak to the Barker students about children with cancer. The students will then spend some time making crafts as a thank-you for the organizations that help them with the meal.
Chloe Truman, a Barker sophomore, said they are making “cocoa cones” for the Candlelighters – pastry bags filled with peppermint hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips and marshmallows. They will also make about 100 placemats that will be delivered to Spokane Valley Partners.
Key Club adviser Alison Walton said the placemats will be delivered to the food bank to be placed in selected food baskets that will be distributed to their clients.
There will also be framed crafts for the supporters of the club such as the Liberty Lake Kiwanis. Students held a drive for frames, which they will spray paint black and put in fake autumn leaves recycled from old floral arrangements, and inspirational quotes.
Students will make thank-you cards for other supporters and donors as well as chocolate-drizzled pretzels for the community dinner.
Senior Amanda Rehfeldt, Key Club president, said the club and the leadership students will make examples of each craft project to help lead the other students in the school to make them.
Last week, the students printed out the directions for making the cocoa cones for the Candlelighters.
“Last year the Candlelighters just loved this,” Walton said.
Students will take an etiquette class that will address their business dinner manners. Teacher Dan Oster talks about how to order and how to sit, what to wear, the proper use of silverware and appropriate small talk. McKnight said the lessons are a good way to prepare the students for what to expect when they have a dinner with a future employer someday.
During the dinner, the leadership students will serve the special-needs students who attend Barker. The special-needs students also play a role in the Thanksgiving activities. They will be helping make friendship bracelets for the students at nearby Progress Elementary School. On Halloween, students from Barker visited the school in costume and went to several classrooms to explain safety on Halloween. They didn’t get a chance to visit every class, so the students they missed will receive the bracelets made by the Barker special-needs students.
“They are very creative and crafty,” Rehfeldt said.
The Key Club and leadership students are excited about the meals. Some of them received the food baskets last year and are excited to help others receive them.
Many of them also attended the community meal last year.
“It was great,” said senior Lucy Hatch. “Everything was so nice. They did a really good job of decorating.”
Walton said the students are learning about the spirit of giving and lending a hand just to help, not for recognition.
“You have to do it from your heart,” Walton said.
Senior Nathan Robertson agreed with his teacher. “It’s cool to know that you’ve touched another person’s life,” he said.