OHS students prepare Thanksgiving meal for 200

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School CTE Program along with the non-profit Helping People Succeed prepared and served a free Thanksgiving dinner to over 200 people in the Okeechobee community on Nov. 22.

Jason Anderson said his students were instrumental in gathering the items needed to prepare the dinner as well as spreading the word of the event through social media. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

The event was held at Okeechobee High School in the cafeteria. Not only was there a warm Thanksgiving dinner offered to whomever needed one, but there was also a bounce house and other activities for children to partake in.

OHS auto-shop teacher Jason Anderson helped initiate the event after discussing the idea with his students.

The event, put together by OHS teacher Jason Anderson and his students, gave out 200 dinners on Thanksgiving. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

“One day I just thought about doing something for the needy for Thanksgiving,” said Mr. Anderson when asked how the event initially began. “Talked to my wife about it and she was on board. We both agreed to open it to the entire community, not only for the less fortunate. Next I spoke to my students to see if I had their support as well and once I knew I had the help needed we got approval from the school and we were off and running.”

Mr. Anderson’s students went to local businesses seeking support for the project. Tobi Cross, a family support worker with Helping People Succeed, also helped the students in obtaining the items they needed.

Still, the group needed someone to cook the turkey and ham for the Thanksgiving dinner and when you need something cooked in Okeechobee, there’s usually one man you want to call.

“We contacted Sheriff Noel Stephen and he graciously agreed to cook the turkeys and hams for us,” explained Mr. Anderson. “We started prepping the turkeys Wednesday night with the help of Noel and his son Cory Stephen. Noel was here at the high school on Thanksgiving at 4:30 in the morning with me to start cooking.”

Newly elected school board member Melisa Jahner helped decorate the cafeteria and jumped in to help with any task without being asked. Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson’s students started advertising the free dinner on their social media.

“My students were a big asset along with my family,” Mr. Anderson continued. “We got on social media and starting reaching out to first responders, Martha’s House, the boys home, county jail and the hospital.”

Mr. Anderson says he plans to bring back the event next year and is thinking of setting up a delivery system to help reach the less fortunate ones without transportation.

The students involved in helping set up the event were Tara Hunt, Julian Tinajero, Juan Sanchez, Daniel Parker, Thomas Garcia, Jose Cervantes, Jesus Cedillo, Ivan Gonzalez, Donielle Harper, Joseline Flores, Erica Ruiz and Diana Ruiz.

Mr. Anderson also wanted to thank others who were instrumental in putting the event together including his wife Belinda Anderson, Matthew and Jessica McPeak, Justin and Felicia White, Shaun Kogut, Lindsey Waldrop, Roger and Yolanda McPeak, Johnny and Tasha Taylor and Leah Suarez.

“From the bottom of my heart I thank you all,” said Mr. Anderson on a Facebook post late Thanksgiving night. “This is not a one-man show and I could have never pulled this together without you. We learned some things this year and will take those with us for next year. I would love for this to become a tradition in Okeechobee and something people can look forward to every year.”

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