Palmyra High School students pull together to organize community Thanksgiving

Burlington County residents unable to celebrate on their own can enjoy turkey and more on Nov. 23

Palmyra’s Thanksgiving Dinner was made possible by the combined efforts of students Maddie Hartman, Chelsey Deacon, Hulianna Blatz, Maddie Conroy, Tommy Shover and Matt Katella

Holiday time isn’t always a happy time for everyone, especially for those in need or far away from family. This year, Palmyra High School senior Maddie Hartman sparked an idea that will make Thanksgiving a little easier for Burlington County residents who find it difficult to have a celebration of their own.

Stuck on what to do for her National Honor Society project, Hartman approached her softball coach and history teacher, Ken Miller, for guidance. After some brainstorming, Miller and Hartman pulled together a few other students to host a community dinner Nov. 23 at the Christ Episcopal Church in Palmyra.

“The two of us were thinking, ‘What can she do?’ We had mentioned this idea past years, but it wasn’t able to come together,” Miller said. “This year, we decided to give it a try, and see if we can put something like this together and see if it works.”

The combined efforts of Hartman, seniors Chelsey Deacon, Hulianna Blatz, Maddie Conroy, and Tommy Shover and junior Matt Katella have yielded gratifying results. Miller and the students worked with Burlington County churches and food pantries to find out what goes into planning a community dinner.

“We went to a pantry in Pennsauken to find out what to expect, what we should be preparing for. The truth is, you just don’t know,” Miller shared. “If we get 30 people, we helped those 30 people.”

Miller and his team are prepared to feed about 100 guests after consulting with churches and pantries that do this kind of volunteer work regularly. And thanks to donations from the community, Georgetti’s in Cinnaminson and local Acme Markets, there is plenty to go around.

“Georgetti’s is providing us with sides for free, and then we got $100 in gift cards from Acme, which we’re using to buy turkey,” Deacon said.

The dinner will include mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and, of course, turkey, all served buffet style.

“In regard to the numbers we get, whether we get 100 people or 20 people, it will be people who wouldn’t otherwise get the dinner they deserve,” Katella added.

Right now, Miller said they are receiving a decent amount of donations, but in the coming weeks, additional fundraising, such as dress-down days for teachers, will help the team ensure everyone is fed.

“There are so many little things,” Miller said. “That’s been the hardest part, remembering the little things. You’re going to have coffee? Well, you need cream and sugar. You want to treat it like a family dinner.”

Interact, a community service club at the high school, is cooperating with Miller and his small student team to assist with their ambitious undertaking.

“These [students], I already knew they were good kids, and even though they’re still teenagers, they’re so committed,” Miller said. “To see them be active in this project and talk to these different churches and food pantries, that is really cool.”

The Thanksgiving Dinner will take place from noon to 5 p.m. at 638 Parry Ave., one block down from the Palmyra Riverline Station. All are welcome to attend.