A trip to New Orleans inspired one local high school student to feed nearly 300 members of her community this holiday season.
On Friday, Warhill High School senior Alyssa Bangit will give locals the opportunity to come together for a Christmas dinner.
The dinner is expected to have approximately 300 people in attendance in addition to 116 volunteers that have already signed up to help, Bangit said. Volunteers will be serving a variety of holiday food such as turkey, ham and green beans to give everyone a chance to have a warm Christmas meal.
This is the first year the event is being held and is open to the public. Doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner will be served in the WHS student center, according to the school’s website.
“We want to make sure our community is fed and happy,” Bangit said.
Bangit said she came up with the idea for the dinner after visiting New Orleans for Christmas last year.
During the trip, she volunteered by serving holiday meals to those in need, and saw buses bringing community members into the city for the dinner.
While this year’s dinner won’t have shuttle buses to bring people in, locals who are interested in attending can take one of the public Williamsburg Area Transit Authority buses to Thomas Nelson Community College Historic Triangle campus, which is within walking distance of the high school, Bangit said.
With help from the Warhill High School Student Council Association, the holiday dinner received a large amount of funding and donations from the community.
Chandler McKnight, a teacher at Warhill, said that substantial donations came from various local businesses, including 12 turkeys from the Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association.
“The amount of donations is overwhelming, but positive,” McKnight said. “It’s amazing to see that high school students are putting all of this together.”
It is only the first year of the school holding this event, but volunteers are hoping for around 300 people will attend, according to McKnight. The organization has advertised in locations around town such as Avalon and FISH with hopes of spreading the word.
With so many donations, the student council association will be able to give some of the turkeys or hams to families who need them, McKnight said.
A community gives back
In addition to the dinner, the organization has also been collecting canned goods and other non-perishable items.
At a Warhill basketball game on Dec. 12, fans could donate food instead of paying for a ticket to the game.
But, the giving doesn’t stop there. Organizers are also helping other students in need.
In addition to the soup kitchen, Joyce Edwards, Warhill’s senior administrative assistant, organized “The Giving Tree” event for students and teachers.
The Giving Tree allowed students who wouldn’t receive any holiday gifts to write down their wishes on an ornament and hang it on the tree. Students and teachers chose an ornament and then purchased or made the gift.
The Giving Tree will be displayed at the dinner Friday along with any other decorations that volunteers contribute. Decorations for the event are either volunteer-supplied or from past school events.
McKnight says they hope volunteers will bring corn hole boards and other small activities to the dinner as well.
“We want Williamsburg to feel loved by its schools and students,” McKnight said.
As of Wednesday, there were 116 volunteers signed up online but the event is still looking for more, according to the online registration form.
“We already have more than enough volunteers, but we want to make sure the public understands that they are invited to this free event, where they will receive delicious food,” Edwards said.
Volunteers for the dinner are still needed to help with setup, serving and cleanup. Those interested in volunteering can register online.