by Marta Torres

Since 2008, P.S. 26 (the Jesse Owens School), has hosted a Multicultural Feast the week before Thanksgiving. It is one of our most highly attended events and it truly is a community effort and celebration.

A week or two before the event, the parent coordinator and interested PTA members greet parents each morning to remind them of the event and make sure they know that every member of their family is welcome. In an effort to recognize and honor all cultures at the school, families are invited to bring a dish or two that is traditionally served at their families’ celebrations.

Our entire PTA executive board goes out to the local merchants, like the local supermarket, pharmacy, and neighborhood corner stores, to invite them to the event and ask for a donation of funds or food. (We allow the merchants to bring items to promote their businesses and acknowledge their donations.) We use any funds we receive to purchase supplies to decorate our cafeteria in a Thanksgiving theme; buy supplies; and order some catered food.

The PTA also use the event as an opportunity to build relationships with parents – to recruit new volunteers and  answer questions. We hold that month’s PTA meeting immediately before the event. Afterwards we might have a guest speaker, an awards ceremony, or a performance, which draws in many more families. Each year the event is slightly different.

After the PTA meeting, we invite all the families to the cafeteria, where a member of the PTA executive board and the hospitality committee serve food and drinks to everyone. To raise funds, we also hold a Thanksgiving dinner basket raffle for $3 to $5 a ticket. The proceeds might be used for something the school needs or to support an end-of-year celebration.

The benefit of the Thanksgiving Feast extends beyond the fun of the evening. The feast gives teachers, parents and administrators a chance to talk and get to know one another outside the classroom, and those relationships enhances life at school for everyone throughout the year.