Some Mt. Spokane High School students are embracing the true meaning of Thanksgiving this year.
The students are providing a full Thanksgiving meal to youths staying at Crosswalk Teen Shelter, an emergency facility run by Volunteers of America for teens ages 13 to 17. Many of the teens at Crosswalk struggle with issues such as depression, substance abuse, sexual abuse, mental health issues, family conflict and parental drug abuse and don’t have anywhere to go for the holidays.
Karly Schmitt, a Mt. Spokane senior, said providing the shelter’s Thanksgiving dinner, which will feed 50 to 60 teens, is the students’ way of giving back to their community.
“We think it is hugely important to do community service,” Schmitt said. “We have a very supportive community, so when we have a chance to give back and say thank you, we like to do that.
“Especially when it’s youth our age,” she added.
They got involved after a student’s mom, Traci Stensland, heard through her church that the local restaurant that usually provides Crosswalk’s Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t able to this year.
“At that point they had no sponsors,” Stensland said. “They didn’t know what they were going to do.”
Stensland thought the Mt. Spokane students might be up to the task. She approached the school’s athletic director, Paul Kautzman, who pitched the idea to teachers of two senior classes that emphasize community involvement, Citizenship and Advanced Placement Government & Politics.
“The kids totally stepped up to it,” Stensland said.
The students don’t earn extra credit or class credit for the service, Kautzman said, but they are required to complete some volunteer hours to graduate.
Although the students can pick how and where they complete the hours, they were all on board with the idea of helping the teens at Crosswalk.
Schmitt, who volunteers regularly at Crosswalk through her church, said the students were really affected by the fact that they get to enjoy a warm Thanksgiving meal when other teens aren’t so lucky.
“It really hit home with the kids,” she said.
About 90 seniors from the two classes spent the past two weeks gathering all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings. They posted lists of the needed items at school, and pies, potatoes and turkeys started rolling in the next day.
Four Mt. Spokane students who are not in the two classes also drove around to homes in the area Friday night to pick up additional food for the shelter and deliver all the goods to Crosswalk.
“It feels good to help out other people that are in need,” said Chase Naccarato, a Mt. Spokane junior who helped deliver the food. “It would be pretty tough to not be able to be home with your family on Thanksgiving.”