Toll Gate Kicks Off Annual TASK Thanksgiving Event

Toll Gate Kicks Off Annual TASK Thanksgiving Event

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Staff from TASK, TASK co-chairs and former Toll Gators/current Hopewell Central High students who spoke at the Gator Gathering (Photo by Maria O’Leary)

The Toll Gate Grammar School student body kicked-off the community’s annual preparation of nearly 750 complete Thanksgiving dinners for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) last week. For more than 30 years, the Toll Gate community has baked pies, donated canned and boxed goods, carved turkeys, packed delivery trucks, decorated the dining hall at TASK, and delivered all the meals.

At a morning “Gator Gathering,” second grade students spoke to the student body about the importance of giving back to the community with this annual tradition.

Toll Gate TASK co-chair Dawn Cargiulo Berman explained, “We have all had a bad day or gone through a tough time. Those moments are always easier when someone notices and takes the time to lend us a hand. Pennington resident Deb Gwazda took notice of some good people in Trenton that needed a hand. She created an outreach project that has continued for 30 years and delivered upwards of 22,000 Thanksgiving dinners. We proudly refer to this Toll Gate tradition as TASK. ”

The assembly also featured poetry readings from a TASK resident and explanation by TASK program manager Jamie Parker about the additional ways the soup kitchen supports patrons. One of the highlights of the event was when a group of Hopewell Valley Central High School students and former Toll Gators spoke about their experience participating in TASK as elementary students and how they were inspired to get more involved in community service. Sophomore Sullivan Meyer spoke about the warm feeling of giving a gift to a friend and compared it to community service. He encouraged the kids to take every opportunity to help others whenever they can, and assured them that helping out will always offer them that warm feeling in return.

“The Second Graders chose the theme of ‘love’ for this Gator Gathering, which was perfect because love is what this project is all about,” said TASK co-chair Missy Cappucci.

The “task” of preparing more than 750 Thanksgiving dinners has been a joint effort between Toll Gate Grammar and the greater community for the past 30 years. Toll Gate students collect canned and boxed food, make 250 of their signature sweet potato pies, while turkeys are donated by local businesses and families, roasted and carved by volunteers. Local nursery schools make cranberry relish, Cub Scouts decorate lunch bags, Girls Scouts make cornbread, Timberlane Middle School packs lunches and the community at-large generously donates time and money to a task that resonates with what this time of year is all about  – “Giving, Caring, Sharing.”  By participating in this project, the children learn that there is always an opportunity to share and lend a helping hand.

To find out how you can help, please contact Missy Cappucci at mcappucci5@yahoo.com or Dawn Berman at dawn@thepenningtonstudio.com. In the past, local real estate agencies have donated nearly half of the turkeys used for this project. The TASK team at Toll Gate is grateful for the generosity of the local community in making this event a success year after year.

The group is still seeking donations of turkeys and other food items from its friends in the community. For more information on this project, to donate, volunteer, to read the poets essays and see photos of this project, please visit http://tollgategrammarpto.shutterfly.com/task25.

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