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Thanksgiving traditions live on at Garden City
Jen Cowart
NEW FACE, FAMILIAR TRADITION: Principal Tonianne Napolitano helps out in the buffet line for her first Thanksgiving dinner at Garden City Elementary School.

Garden City Elementary School was full of Thanksgiving tradition last week as the school participated in their annual Thanksgiving food drive and the students in grades one and two dined together at their annual Thanksgiving dinner.

"For at least 20 of the past 27 years I have been here, we have done this Thanksgiving dinner," said first grade teacher Stephanie DiChiro. "It started with fruit and popcorn and then we had food donated from Boston Market, and now we cook the foods here and the children all eat together.”

DiChiro said the shared meal is "a nice way for us to celebrate what we are thankful for" and to re-enact the first Thanksgiving.

As the meal was taking place, school nurse Elaine Roch and school secretary Michelle Pettigrew were wrapping up the final details of the school's annual Thanksgiving food drive, which benefits families at Garden City Elementary who are in need.

"We do this annually, and it varies year to year as to how many baskets we need," said Roch. "This year we put together six baskets."

Roch and Pettigrew coordinate with the teachers in the building and the donations come pouring in once the food drive begins.

"We have very generous people here," said Roch.

As DiChiro noted, traditions such as these are not affected by turnover or change in administrators or teachers but are sustained over time.

“We've had all different teachers throughout the years, and each year everyone really enjoys it. This year is Ms. Napolitano's first year as principal here, so it's her first Thanksgiving dinner with us," she said.

As the gravy was being poured in the cafeteria, Roch and Pettigrew were looking ahead to their next school tradition: the Giving Tree, which will start the first week of December.

Each tag will be a gift needed for the children, and each child will get two books, two items of clothing and two toys.

“It's a big undertaking, but we always get a good response from everyone," she said.

DiChiro agreed that generosity from the school community is key to the success of the holiday programs.

"We could not do all of this without the help of all of the parent volunteers," she said.


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