Local elementary students put the “give” in Thanksgiving

With the help of PTA parents, around 50 Marlton Elementary School students assembled over 30 meals for families in need the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Seven-year-old Jennie Butrymowicz, a second grader at Marlton Elementary School, carries bags of Thanksgiving food destined for the Wiley Food Pantry to a staging area before they are loaded onto vans.

It is safe to say that many of us have quite a lot on our plates the week of Thanksgiving. There are meals to prepare, guests to invite and homes to get in order before the big day. Marlton Elementary School recently proved they are no exception to this busy time of year as students, along with parents and PTA members, took a few hours out of their pre-holiday schedules to ensure everyone in Marlton has something on their plate this year.

On Monday, Nov. 25, students and parents gathered in the school’s gymnasium to assemble more than 30 Thanksgiving meals for local families in need. In the weeks leading up to the event, students and their families donated a variety of food items for the meals, including frozen turkeys, cranberry sauce, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and pies.

Young students were paired up with older students and assembled meal bags with the donated food. The PTA also included ShopRite gift cards with the meals so families can purchase additional items of their own choosing. 

From the school where they were assembled, the meals were taken to the Wiley Food Pantry at the Wiley Church in Marlton. Local families picked up their meal bags from the pantry later that same evening.

“We wanted to work with a group that was in town, in Marlton, so that we were able to reach out to local families,” PTA President Carla Gable said of their choice to partner with the Wiley Pantry each year.

Marlton Elementary has been making donations like this for the past five years, according to Gable. This was her second year organizing the meal assembly event.

Before being paired off and set to their work, students were gathered for a short talk about the people they were helping and the purpose of the project.

“Our hope is that the kids understand that it’s important to give to others in our community, especially around the holidays, that we’re sharing a lot of the good things we have in our home with others outside of our home,” Gable said, adding, “While they’re here, we want them to learn about working together in a partnership, in a group, to make a big project work smoothly.”

Around 50 students signed up to participate and made short work of sorting the donated food into organized meal bags. Gable noted that this year may have been the fastest the bags had ever been assembled. 

Among these 50 students was 10-year-old Hafsa Salahuddin, a fifth-grader at Marlton Elementary. She was looking forward to her own family’s Thanksgiving meal, where she also lends a helping hand, but really enjoyed the opportunity to help others outside of her family. Her favorite part of the afternoon was writing notes for the families to include with the meal bags.

“I wrote, ‘Enjoy the food and happy Thanksgiving,’” Salahuddin said proudly. “I feel happy to help the families because I really like helping people.”