Needy Chandler families can receive many of the fixings to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for free Saturday morning, thanks to the donations of Chandler businesses, students and school employees.
The annual Thanksgiving Family Assistance Day event will start handing out food at 8 a.m. at San Marcos Elementary School, 451 W. Frye Road, where the Chandler CARE Center is currently located.
"Everything is donated," said Susan Horan, director of the CARE Center. "Last year we served about 290 families. The need is so much greater we went to a principals' meeting at the first of the year to ask them to consider the Chandler CARE Center as a charity."
The schools responded. Many signed up in advance to donate rice, beans, personal items and turkeys to be handed out Saturday. But early last week, Horan sent out an SOS for more turkeys.
The last-minute request garnered more turkeys. Staff and students at Chandler's Basha High School together purchased more than 100 turkeys; the student council at Andersen Elementary School took candy sale money and purchased about 20 turkeys; Fulton Elementary School continued its annual support of the event with 58 turkeys, Horan said.
Even the employees in the Chandler Unified School District's main office and central kitchen came together to give 100 turkeys, she said.
"Even the very needy children wanted to bring something," she said, noting that several schools that have high numbers of students qualifying for the federal lunch program still purchased turkeys.
"They allow for a longer collection period," she said. "It's important they (students) learn from the beginning that you need to give or nobody gets to receive."
The Chandler CARE Center is set up within the school district, with a new facility being built at Galveston Elementary School. It is financially supported by the public.
"We have no resources of our own. We have no fiscal resources. We provide to the community from the community," Horan said.
All medical services provided through the CARE Center are donated by doctors and nurses. Dental workers will be on hand Saturday to provide free flouride treatments. Flu shots also will be available.
Ken James, principal at Basha High, said it was the first year his school has participated in the event.
Clubs, students and teachers all pitched in.
"Our faculty, staff and students are a pretty giving group," James said. "It didn't surprise me that they did it, but it surprised me how quickly they did it."
Sixth-grade student council officers Katie Powlik, 11, and Nick Applegate, 11, said they thought it was worthwhile for Andersen Elementary School to get involved. Each year, the student council sells candy after assemblies. The student council took a portion of those funds to buy turkeys, Nick said, "To help the families in need who don't have enough money to have a Thanksgiving dinner."
"I think it's good for us to realize people are in need and they should be helped. I think it's right that we should donate these turkeys for them," Katie said.