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The Toll Gate Elementary School student body kicked-off the school’s annual preparation of nearly 700 complete Thanksgiving dinners for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen last week.  For more than 25 years, the Toll Gate community has participated in this tradition. Students and special guests bake pies, donate canned and boxed goods, carve turkeys, pack delivery trucks, decorate the dining hall at TASK and deliver all the meals.

Toll Gate parents and TASK co-chairs Missy Cappucci and Dawn Berman helped introduce the concept of the project to Kindergarten students for the very first time, while the 1st through 5th grade veterans were reminded of how important their participation will be in preparing these meals. Berman led students through a slide presentation with the many “tasks” that will take place in order to make sure that everyone in our community can have a delicious homemade Thanksgiving dinner.

David Hallgren, also a Toll Gate parent and PTO co-president, spoke to the assembled students about how they will get back as much as they give when participating in the project. He focused on the joy the students will experience helping others and the sense of community that benefits everyone.

Student volunteers from each grade then came up and created a “community table.” Fifth grade students brought up legs and assembled a tabletop, and each grade thereafter brought items to set-up the table, such as a tablecloth, plates and glasses. After the table was built, Hallgren officially kicked-off the project with a reminder about what a targeted food drive is and what each student is responsible for. The children were then treated to a poetry reading by four TASK poets and were enthralled with their enthusiasm and talent.

The “task” of preparing more than 700 Thanksgiving dinners has been a joint effort between Toll Gate Grammar and the greater community for the past 25 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.  It is our intention, once again, to spread joy and make a difference for our neighbors, one tasty Thanksgiving dinner at a time!

If you would like to find out how you can help, please contact Missy Cappucci at mcappucci5@yahoo.com or Dawn Berman at dcberm@verizon.net. In the past, local real estate firms 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. We are still seeking donations of turkeys and other food items from our friends in the community. For more information on this project, to donate, to see our schedule, to volunteer, to read the poets essays and see photos of this project, please visit our website at http://tollgategrammarpto.shutterfly.com/task25.

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