What started as inviting parents into Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School classrooms for early Thanksgiving celebrations has grown over 34 years into a schoolwide event and community tradition.
The school held its Thanksgiving Community Dinner Nov. 17 with entertainment provided by Mt. Hope students and Henry E. Lackey High School students volunteering to serve food and drinks.
The dinner was the brainchild of Mt. Hope guidance counselor, the late Elvira Barnes, and kept up by staff members including Connie Bannister, a school secretary who retired in 2018. This year’s event was coordinated with the help of parent liaison Betty Clark and Ellen Dobry, a secretary at the school.
Barnes was a classroom teacher when she started the event, and it was on a much smaller scale. “My daughter was in the second grade, and we were invited into the classroom,” Anna M. Craig, a retired Mt. Hope employee, recalled. “Elvira Barnes would invite the parents in, and it was just great.”
Throughout the years, the event expanded to include senior citizens in the Nanjemoy community with invitations going home with students and sent to churches and senior centers. The celebration moved out of classrooms and into the cafeteria.
Many of the Lackey students who served as volunteers are Mt. Hope alums who remembered when they participated in the celebration as youngsters. Many liked seeing the senior citizens enjoying themselves and getting out in the days before Thanksgiving break. “I think we can learn a lot from them,” Sarah Dobry, a Lackey sophomore, said of the seniors. “They have been through the things we are going through.”
The event kicks off the Thanksgiving holiday for many in the Mt. Hope community, although the dinner was shelved for a couple of years due to the pandemic. “Thanksgiving is the time of year that we ask ourselves what we are thankful for,” Mt. Hope Principal Mike Hoffman said. “And one is for the power and passion of our community stakeholders to help bring back this wonderful event.”
Craig is thankful she can spend time with friends during the event. “It’s about love and fellowship,” she said. “Just enjoying each other’s company and sharing this special thing with each other.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).