Thanksgiving Dinner Serves Many Purposes at WJHS Including An Opportunity for Generations to Come Together

Post date: Dec 11, 2012 2:23:52 PM

Wells Junior High School and the school’s eighth grade class presented the 18th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for area seniors on November 18th. Over a two hour period eighth grade students greeted hundreds of guests, escorted them to their seats, worked in the kitchen, waited on tables and helped with clean-up. Even a group of high school students was on hand to offer a valet service. By one o’clock in the afternoon, over 400 guests had been served. Many take-out dinners were also prepared.

This much anticipated school and community event serves many purposes besides being a great holiday meal for many. According to WJHS Principal Chris Chessie the dinner and all the work that goes into it helps reinforce some of the schools core values in the minds of students including respect, compassion and giving back to the community. The dinner is also an ending to a five-week Generations Unit for Language Arts class taught by Julie Esch and Matt Coleman.

According to Math Content Coach Linda Gaidimas the dinner is a ‘thank you’ to the community. “I think that we are very blessed in this community,” said Gaidimas who has worked on the dinner for many years. “We have the support of the whole community in terms of our school district. I look at this as a very small thing that we can do for the community as a ‘thank you’ for support of the budget and for support of the kids.”

During the dinner on Sunday, Chessie pointed out yet another purpose served by having these dinners. It provides a great opportunity for generations to come together.

“What we have now,” commented Chessie, “is several generations all together for a special event. It is just a great opportunity for our kids.” Chessie, had his own generational experience when he visited with a principal that he had in high school, former Sanford High School Principal Paul Seavey who attended the dinner with his wife. The Seavey’s now have a grandchild who is a fifth grade student at WJHS.

Vicki Aldridge, one of WJHS’s secretaries, has helped organize these dinners since the first dinner in 1994. Over the years, Aldridge has become known for the pecan pie that she helps bake with students from a recipe that she and her mother developed when they operated a bakery in Wells many years ago. One of Aldridge’s favorite dinner guests was former Wells teacher Bea Spiller who attended every dinner until her passing in 2011 at the age of 105. When Aldridge was in school she had Spiller as a reading teacher in 7th and 8th grade.

One of the staff helping out on Sunday was Danielle Adams, a 2008 graduate of Wells High School who is now a math teacher at WJHS and advisor to the eighth grade class. Adams noted that she worked on the 1998 dinner as an eighth grade student at WJHS. This year, her younger sister Michelle, was one of the wait staff. Adams said that she expects her two year old son to work on the dinner when he reaches the eighth grade.

Assistant Principal at WJHS Robert Griffin was working his first dinner. Griffin was in charge of the coffee station, helping students (most who had never served coffee before) learn the ‘language of coffee’ as Griffin put it. Griffin brought his two sons Nick, age 10, and Tom, age 8, to help at the dinner. Both acted as runners and helped serve water and fruit cups.

As briefly mentioned above, the dinner serves as an ending to a Generations Unit in Language Arts class. For five weeks, students study issues related to aging in modern society. They read stories, write and reflect on how the elderly are treated. In addition to the dinner, students also participate in an oral history project by visiting the residents of Sentry Hill in York Harbor and conducting interviews.

Throughout the week before the dinner eighth graders helped create banners, napkins and table decorations. On Friday they set up tables, placed table decorations and helped make pecan and pumpkin pies. On Saturday cream pies were baked and other work continued.

Those who helped make this year’s dinner a success include: The entire eighth grade class, Mr. and Mrs. Hunter of The Wells IGA (for the donation of 22 turkeys), Gary Leech of Congdon’s Donuts (for cooking the turkeys), Wells-Ogunquit Center in Moody (for a donation of $430 for a WJHS scholarship fund), Wells Dunkin Donuts (for donating coffee), Spiller Farm in Wells (for donation of 55 sugar pumpkins for table decorations), Julie Esch, Matt Coleman, Ronda Falconer, Susie Dugovic, Kerry Georgitis, Alice Meader, Maryellen McEvoy, Kim McDonough, Angie Norton, and Carroll Crouch. Thanks also goes to the Nutrition Service staff at WJHS including Jan Tessier, Betsey Johnson, Laura Days, Hugette St. Pierre and Director Tyler Goodwin who carved turkey and prepared the meal’s ‘fixins’ consisting of mashed potatoes, winter squash, peas, stuffing and gravy. A thank you also goes to WHS seniors and members of the National Honor Society Teddy Durfee, Dom Barra, Kaitlin Devlin, Kelsey Valente, Maddie Andrews and Zoe Onion who parked cars as a valet service.

Caption: At left is WJHS 7th and 8th Grade Math Teacher Danielle Adams (formerly Desjardins) with her younger sister Michelle Desjardins. On November 18th, both were working on the 18th Annual WJHS Thanksgiving Dinner at WJHS. Danielle is in her sixth year as a teacher with the WOCSD while Michelle is an eighth grade student at WJHS. During the dinner Danielle was a greeter and Michelle waited on tables.

Caption: At the temporary “coat check” table are WJHS staff members Linda Gaidimas (left) and Vicki Aldridge. “They look forward to it every year,” said Aldridge of the dinner guests, many of whom attend yearly. “It is so great to see them here.”