Thanksgiving Drive 2017 is Under Way

Posted November 6, 2017 / Last updated November 14, 2017

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Tommy Capella ’83 addresses students at morning assembly to kick off the drive.

In the weeks leading up to the celebration of Thanksgiving, there will be more on the minds of students besides their seven subjects.

Yes, fall athletics teams are busy with post-season competition, the Philelectic Society is performing two Shakespearean productions, and the preparation for Open House is nearly complete. But even on top of all that, Jesuit students are shifting their focus off campus in these coming weeks to the families of New Orleans as homerooms prepare for the annual Thanksgiving Drive.

The drive was kicked off by community service director Mr. Kevin Murphy ’00 on Friday, Nov. 3. Mr. Murphy also introduced Jesuit alumnus Tommy Capella ’83, who officially launched the 2017 Thanksgiving Drive at morning assembly in Traditions Courtyard. In Capella’s address to the student body, he called on every Blue Jay to “give of yourselves, love one another, laugh loudly, and forgive easily.” He reminded students that the drive is just as much about brotherhood and tradition as it is about service and sacrifice. Capella encouraged students to “embrace it, understand how special this building is, understand the tradition of what Jesuit is going to show you, not just in academics.”

Watch the Video of the Address at Morning Assembly by Tommy Capella ’83

Each homeroom is given at least five families for which to collect food items over the next two weeks. Students will bring in canned goods, among other items, and collect the funds necessary to complete the baskets with perishable items such as a eggs, bread, and milk. The drive will culminate when student and alumni teams spend two days shopping for, packing, and delivering these baskets to hundreds of families in need.


Members of the Class of 2018 show their spirit during the address at Morning Assembly.

Needless to say, it is not just the students whose efforts will feed more than 450 needy families throughout the New Orleans area on November 22. Alumni enjoy the opportunity to connect with their alma mater by continuing to support the drive as men for others. Alumni organize efforts to adopt nearly 180 families, reaching out classmate-to-classmate to raise funds for food items. Some classes even go above and beyond by taking on families as a class project. Alumni also gather on Monday, Nov. 21, to sort the food purchased with alumni donations, and many return to the Student Commons on Tuesday, Nov. 22, to distribute the food to families that pick up their baskets from Jesuit and deliver to those who cannot make the trip to school.

Of course, the Class of 1983, of which Tommy Capella is a proud member, has embraced the drive as a means of helping the less fortunate and connecting with younger Jays in the spirit of service for the last two decades. The class is known as the “Turkey Drive Class” for supplying the turkeys each year for every basket that gets delivered. Capella noted, “This year will be our 22nd year of providing 500 turkeys for families to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving that would not have had it because they didn’t have the money. That’s no excuse not to enjoy what that holiday is supposed to bring.”

Accompanying Capella at Morning Assembly were classmates Mike Varisco, Malcolm Schwarzenbach, Brian North, John Hazard, Eric Derbes, and René Alvarez. Each year the 1983 committee appeals to their classmates to provide the funds not only to purchase the turkeys for that year, but also to grow an endowment to eventually fully fund the turkey drive.

Ultimately, Capella’s challenge to each grade level was to own the Blue Jay brotherhood without worrying about what others may think or say. “I urge you and your class to find your path to shape your character, because character is what you are. Reputation is what others think of you. That doesn’t mean anything. Your character is what you are,” he said.