Toll Gate students bring Thanksgiving to TASK

Jacob Berman and Michael Cappucci getting ready for the canned goods collection

As they have every year for more than three decades, Toll Gate Grammar School students will spend the coming week preparing Thanksgiving dinners for less fortunate people. They are still looking for donations of roasted turkeys as the holiday nears.

Last week, the student body kicked off the school’s annual preparation of nearly 700 complete Thanksgiving dinners for patrons of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) with the help of Jaime Parker, Manager of Programs at TASK and members of the Trenton Circus Squad.

The Trenton Circus Squad entertains Toll Gate students at last week’s TASK kick off.

It is a tradition for Toll Gate students and the surrounding community to do everything they can to make a happy Thanksgiving for others. Toll Gate students collect canned and boxed food, and make 250 of their signature sweet potato pies. Turkeys are donated by local businesses and families and are then 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.” The organizers say that by participating in this project, the children learn that there is always an opportunity to share and lend a helping hand. 

“On behalf of the staff and students at Toll Gate Grammar School, we are pleased to be part of the effort to provide Thanksgiving dinners for our friends at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen,” said Toll Gate Principal Jane-Ellen Lennon. “This is a tradition that has been a part of the Toll Gate community for over 30 years and we are grateful for all who contribute to this community effort.”

At a morning “Gator Gathering,” Parker spoke to Toll Gate students about outreach programs TASK has with the Trenton area community, in particular, Tom von Oehsen’s Trenton Circus Squad. Parker explained how TASK provides dinner for the students in need who are members of the squad, sustaining their training and making their success a reality. Three of those students, now junior counsellors and paid performers, entertained Toll Gate students with an assortment of exciting circus tricks. From juggling, to tight wire, to one young man balancing a large ladder on his chin, the entertaining show captivated the students.

Ms. Horsley juggling with the Trenton Circus Squad

“This project we refer to as TASK gives us an opportunity to come together as a community and provide nourishment and care where it is needed,” said Toll Gate parent Dawn Berman. “Your assistance is a gesture of hope. Our hope is that, in the practice of this annual project, you come to understand the impact that community service can have on other people’s lives. Offering your time, knowledge and skills can transform another person’s life.”

Starting November 6, Toll Gate students began the “task” of collecting items for their targeted food drive. Each grade is assigned a specific food item to create a complete Thanksgiving meal, from stuffing to sweet potatoes.

Yesterday, fifth grade students loaded a truck with non-perishables for delivery to TASK and assembled 275 pie boxes. On November 25 and 26, students and helpers from throughout the school will work together to bake pies. On the evening of November 26, Toll Gate parents and helpers will don aprons and wield knives for the annual carve-a-thon in the school’s cafeteria. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, third grade students will personally travel to TASK to decorate for the holiday celebration, and help with the delivery of turkeys and pies.

If you would like more information about how you can help, please contact Missy Cappucci at or Dawn Berman at

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