A Thanksgiving tradition continued at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School when its students — past and present — along with staff opened the doors to senior citizens and guests Nov. 17 for the 31st Thanksgiving celebration.
The event was started by the late Elvira Barnes, a guidance counselor at Mt. Hope. It has been continued by Connie Bannister, a secretary at the school, and a team of volunteers who spend the week leading up to the lunch shopping for ingredients and cooking. Invitations go out to senior centers and nursing homes, along with churches in the area, Bannister said.
“It’s good for the seniors to get together,” Bannister said. In turn, the event is a learning opportunity for the students. “It’s a good example for them, showing them to give back to their community,” she said.
Henry E. Lackey High School students volunteered to serve food and wait on tables. It’s not their first Mt. Hope Thanksgiving, many of them remember the event from when they were students at the elementary school. “It feels like yesterday,” said Kaitlin Kerzel, a Lackey senior. “We’re a pretty small community, so it’s nice seeing people and catching up.”
It was the first year at the event for Nellie Lewis, a resident of Genesis HealthCare in La Plata. A former resident of Fort Worth, Texas, Lewis moved to Charles County to be closer to family. “I like to be around people, I miss being with people,” said Lewis, who taught in Texas for 27 years.
Before the food was served, Mt. Hope fifth graders in the chorus and strings orchestra performed several numbers. Among them was the new school song, “Mountain of Hope,” written by parent Doug Cooley, father of Erin, a fifth grader, and Emily, a third grader. The fifth graders sang international tunes like the Nigerian welcome song, “Funga Alafia,” New Zealand folk song “E Papa Waiari” and “Shoo Turkey,” a song originating in the Gullah community of Georgia. The strings played the nursery staples “Old MacDonald” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
The Rev. Gwendolyn Washington of Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church gave the blessing before the food was served.
“We celebrate our seniors,” said Principal William Miller. “Seniors who have served others and now it is our time to serve you.” A chorus of “Amen” came from the crowd. “Thank you for all you have contributed and continue to contribute,” Miller said.
This year, volunteers prepared 11 turkeys, seven hams, 12 gallons of green beans, two bushels of yams, two bushels of cabbage, 20 pounds of macaroni and cheese, 20 pounds of rice pudding, 50 pounds of potato salad and 25 pounds of mashed potatoes.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 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 Patricia Vaira, 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.