Jesuit Thanksgiving Drive Serves 522 Families
Often touted as the best day of the school year, the Jesuit Thanksgiving Drive allows Blue Jays the opportunity to live out the motto of being Men for Others. As members of the Jesuit community reflect upon the abundance in their own lives at Thanksgiving, it is natural to want to reach out in service to others.
A meal seems like such a simple thing – food items, carefully prepared, and served with family and friends. But the gift of a meal can bring so much to a family during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The food itself is a sign of great abundance and celebration. Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together and enjoy the company of loved ones separated by distance and time. It is a time to celebrate the traditions of home, sharing recipes from one generation to the next and the stories that go with them. No one should go without a proper Thanksgiving meal.
This year, the efforts at Carrollton and Banks that have been building over the weeks leading up to the holiday have provided this gift for 522 families across the New Orleans area. In truth, the drive is a full-scale community effort.
The heart of the drive is the homeroom collection of food items. Each homeroom is given five families (and some homerooms take on a few extra) for whom they collect canned foods and the money to purchase perishable groceries on the day of the delivery. Homerooms receive letters from the families requesting a Thanksgiving meal and contact them weeks ahead to let them know they will be taken care of. Student organizations and clubs volunteer to take on families as well, even on top of the families students serve through homeroom.
Of course, an overwhelming tide of support comes from alumni who look forward to serving the community through the drive each year. The Class of 1983 is truly a paradigm for how alumni can band together for class projects. The “turkey class” purchases the turkeys for every Thanksgiving basket that is distributed from Carrollton and Banks, and the class has a great time doing it.
Alumni also volunteer to supply, sort, hand out, and deliver the 180 baskets that they contribute to the drive. Some classes take on a handful of families as a class project, including very recent graduates from 2013, 2015, and 2017 – a true sign of the vibrancy of this Blue Jay tradition.
The Thanksgiving Drive Moment by Moment
5:30 a.m. Shopping
The day begins at Robért Fresh Market where students, faculty, and staff meet to purchase the perishable goods needed to complete the baskets already begun with non-perishable food items collected in homeroom. The grocery store fills quickly as people pack the aisles, carefully checking off their lists and accounting for every penny raised during the month.
7 a.m. Basket Packing
After shopping, students return to campus and work with classmates to prepare baskets for delivery. Each homeroom packs three or more boxes with food items, and several clubs, athletic teams, and organizations prepare additional baskets. The yard is double- and even triple-parked as students ferry bursting baskets from classrooms to their cars.
8 a.m. Prayer Service
Prior to delivery, the school community gathers in the Chapel of the North American Martyrs for a Thanksgiving prayer service. The service beings with a procession of the colors by the MCJROTC and the procession of clergy. After readings from scripture, a senior speaker and a faculty speaker address the students, faculty, alumni, and parents gathered in the chapel. This year Mr. Sheridan Moran and senior Caleb Rogers were the featured speakers. The service concluded with the congregation singing the Jesuit Alma Mater and God Bless America.
A very special part of the drive is setting out after the prayer service to greet members of the community in the delivery process. Certain students from each homeroom volunteer to load the items into their cars and drop off a full Thanksgiving meal – a very often much more – to families in the New Orleans area. Families are eager to sort the groceries and start cooking for their holiday meal on Thanksgiving day.