Rotary’s Thanksgiving meals to poor families The club was assisted by the students of an elementary school who had taken up a number of charitable projects despite hailing from a less privileged background.

Rotarian Phil Sherwood stands next to turkeys that will be donated to needy families in Clyde W Needham Elementary School's cafeteria. Photo: John Bays/News-Sentinel
Rotarian Phil Sherwood stands next to turkeys that will be donated to needy families in Clyde W Needham Elementary School’s cafeteria. Photo: John Bays/News-Sentinel

Rotary Club of Lodi (California, US — D 5220) President Kirk Strangeland clapped his hands and called for attention in the cafeteria of Clyde W Needham Elementary School in Lodi, allowing fellow Rotarian Phil Sherwood to give instructions to the volunteers gathered there on a Tuesday afternoon.

Rotarians, school staff and students all formed an assembly line, packing canned fruits and vegetables.

They held stuffed boxes having mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pies into baskets that were delivered, along with turkeys and salads, to 40 families in Lodi later that day, including 10 baskets that were delivered to the Lodi House.

Much of the food was donated, with Sherwood and his wife making 17 stops between Lodi and Sacramento to purchase 35 of the turkeys on Monday.

“It’s gratifying, our club is concerned about child nutrition. This is not a handout, it’s assistance to make sure that families get a complete Thanksgiving meal,” Sherwood said.

“The only thing they’d probably need is milk for the mashed potatoes, other than that, they’ll have all the makings of a family meal,” he said.

Former Rotary Club President Sherry Cotta first came up with the idea last year and appointed Sherwood to oversee the club’s first foray into donating Thanksgiving meals to hungry families.

Needham Elementary was chosen, in part, after Sherwood learned that the students participated in a number of other charity events in the previous months, according to Strangeland.

“I think what spurred him was seeing the students here at Needham School doing a shoe drive for children in Africa.”

“He saw them doing this service, and thought that this would be a nice complement, to have children who are already learning to serve their community, combined with the classical Thanksgiving food drive for families, some of whom are their classmates. It’s all anonymous, though, they don’t know where the baskets are going,” Strangeland said.

A Title I school, many students at Needham receive their lunch through the school’s free or reduced price lunch programme, and some even receive a free breakfast.

Despite this, students at Needham have been involved in multiple charitable projects, including a food drive to benefit local food banks that started last week as well as Pennies For Patients, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Community service, is an integral part of Needham’s mission statement, according to Principal Ruth Barajas.

“Three things that we focus on developing in our students are to become courageous problem-solvers who are ready to learn. This is an opportunity for students in our school to solve the problems of the needy in the community. We have some students who are part of our Kindness Crew who volunteered to help with this project,” Barajas said.

Source: Lodi News-Sentinel

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