Kindergartners Liam Jackson, left, and Max Chamberlin eat Thanksgiving dinner with second-grade teacher Julie Kiss at Jacobs Primary School. The school held its third annual Thanksgiving feast Tuesday, with all 250 students dining together. (Provided photo)


Soft piano music filled the air as boys and girls dressed in suits and ties and flowing dresses sat down for a Thanksgiving feast Tuesday at Jacobs Primary School.

All 250 of the school’s kindergarten through third-grade students gathered as one giant family to eagerly dig into heaping plates of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, carrots and celery, rolls, pumpkin pie, cookies and Jell-O. The tables were adorned with flickering candles and colorful placemats designed by the students, each depicting through words and pictures what the child was grateful for.

Students were encouraged to seat themselves not as a class, but with kids from other grades and classrooms. And while they excitedly discussed the meal’s highlights and their impending recess session, volunteers from nearby churches scuttled around refilling drinks and offering second helpings.

This is the third year Jacobs has offered the Thanksgiving feast, made possible through the generosity of Gateway Church and College First Church of God.

“These local churches have just taken such an interest in our school,” said music teacher Alycia Althaus.

Althaus and kindergarten teacher Alyssa Allsop began organizing the meal in September. Turkey was provided by Miller’s Meats, some sides came from the Millsteam program at Findlay High School, and the rolls were from Bob Evans. Althaus said the two churches donated the desserts and most of the side dishes and began setting up tables at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Leading up to the event, school leaders reinforced the importance of using good table manners and inside voices, and appropriate dinner conversation. The students were encouraged to “dress to impress,” and many took the suggestion to heart.

“The only time I wear high heels is for the feast,” said third-grader Olivia Donat, proudly showing off her spotless black boots with the modest heel.

Third-grader Jayce Endicott said he narrowly escaped a fashion faux pas when he made a last-minute change from a Nike T-shirt to a more refined button-down Tuesday morning. He even styled his hair for the occasion.

Asked about their favorite dishes, Olivia praised the macaroni and cheese while Jayce declared “definitely the turkey. And the bread is pretty good.”

Olivia was shocked to find herself dining alongside a kindergartner who just happened to be her friend’s little sister. She and her new acquaintance enjoyed checking out the artwork on the placemats left at their seats, and Olivia said the placemat she designed noted her thankfulness for her teachers and family, friends, shelter and food.

Althaus said the feast has become a Jacobs tradition, and the entire school looks forward to it from year to year. For some students, the meal is a festive break from the everyday routine. But for others, it’s a brush with a theme of abundance that many of us take for granted.

“A lot of our students, this is the first and only Thanksgiving experience they’ll have,” Althaus said.

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