Hayes High School and the Delaware County Juvenile Court held their fifth annual Hunger Games event Tuesday and gave out 225 meals to families for Thanksgiving.
The event was started five years ago by Cecelia Monahan, a support administrator at the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and Director of Court Services Lisa Williamson. It now involves Hayes High School, all the elementary schools in Delaware, and a wide array of county offices and agencies.
Williamson said people began lining up outside the high school hours before Tuesday’s giveaway. During the event, drivers pulled up to several stations and volunteers loaded each vehicle with a turkey, rolls, a pumpkin pie, and a variety of sides and vegetables.
One of the newcomers to the event was County Recorder Melissa Jordan, whose office donated pans for all of the turkeys that given out.
“I think it’s awesome,” Jordan said. “I’ve seen it taking place, and I just wasn’t ever available. (This year) my office was able to provide the pans, and I’m happy to be here with other elected officials and all these kids.”
Jordan added the event really shows the cooperation between the school district and county offices.
“I think it shows how we can come together to help others enjoy a holiday they might not otherwise be able to enjoy,” she said. “It’s nice to see the community pulling together like this, and it sets a good example. I’m going to be involved from here on out, because it’s just so exciting.”
Delaware County Clerk of Courts Natalie Fravel also helped out at the event for the first time Tuesday. She said her office will be involved in the event in the future.
“It’s amazing,” Fravel said. “This is what Delaware is all about.”
County Auditor George Kaitsa, who helped load food into vehicles, said he was happy to lend a hand.
“It’s wonderful that the community is coming out to help all of these families,” Kaitsa said. “I really have to commend all the county staff and school staff that organized this whole event. They did a terrific job. We were happy to do it this year, and we’re going to definitely stay involved.”
Randall Fuller, the judge presiding over the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court, said it was his first event, adding he loved seeing all the kids and knowing they’ll get to have a Thanksgiving meal because of the event.
“It’s a great community event,” Fuller said.
The kids at the event also got a reminder to be good from Jon Martin, who showed up in Santa Claus attire.
“I like seeing the community helping the other community members that are less fortunate,” Martin said. “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing.”
Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD) Superintendent Kris Hodge has been helping out for three years, and she’s excited to see it continue to grow.
“It’s overwhelming,” Hodge said. “We’re able to reach more families. It’s an amazing experience. We’re very excited about how this has grown. Everybody is participating. It’s just unbelievable. This is my favorite day of the year, beyond a doubt.”
Hodge added because of the event, the DCBDD would be able to give food to 22 of its families in need.
Delaware City Schools Superintendent Heidi Kegley, who has helped at previous events, said she enjoyed her first Thanksgiving meal giveaway as superintendent.
“I think this is just another example of how well our community works together,” she said. “Providing a meal to so many of our families so that everyone has the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. I think this shows the trust that our community has in the schools and our community partners that they can come and get what is needed.”
Kegley pointed out students at Hayes spent their study hall handing out donations, while students across the district raised money or food for the event.
“I am so incredibly proud of our students and all that they have done to make this day possible,” Kegley said.
Hayes Principal Richard Stranges said he was excited about the turnout for the event.
“The community knows Hayes High School and our partners will always provide this for our community, and it gives us such joy,” he said. “It’s Thanksgiving. This is really what our students want to do. It’s become a tradition that our community counts on. We had people lined up at 8 a.m. Because this is a community event, the community all rallies together to provide a meal for families. There’s never a question to ask. You need enough for two or three families? Take it. We’re here to serve.”
Stranges also praised Kegley for leading during the event, including helping to arrange for the Delaware General Health District to bring a car seat for a family that needed one.
After the event, Williamson said it exceeded her expectations.
“This is so exciting,” she said. “I never dreamed it was going to be this big. We had 225 meals this year. The generosity of all the other county agencies is overwhelming. It’s wonderful to see all the smiles on all these families’ faces. I never thought it would be this when we first created it five years ago. It’s surpassed all my expectations.”
Williamson said she was also thankful for a $250 donation from Meijer that was used to purchase food.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.