The school’s Sharing Christmas dinner event is the culmination of its year-long support of Westside Elementary School students, in Daytona Beach.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Lined down the hallways of St. James Episcopal School, at 38 S. Halifax Drive, are cardboard boxes overflowing with food.
“Each grade is given a month of the year,” Tracy Anderson, parish and school administer, said. “They collect food for families at (Westside Elementary School) ... then they box them up themselves and deliver them.”
In November, she estimates, 10 families were fed through the school’s East-to-West philanthropy program. But this initiative is anything but new — St. James students have been “adopting” less-fortunate families for food donations for at least the six years Anderson has been working there.
Westside Elementary was initially chosen over other schools as the focus of St. James’ work because of personal ties. The mother of a St. James student taught there, and after realizing that nearly the entire student population was enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, she knew something had to be done to help.
“These families are on food stamps, and they don’t have the means to make it to the end of the month,” Anderson said.
The school’s East-to-West drive culminates Thursday, Dec. 6, with its annual Sharing Christmas event, which offers a free holiday dinner to Westside families.
Staff prepares the food in St. James’ kitchen and then transports it to Daytona, where middle-schoolers greet Westside families into the dining room, lead them to their tables and then serve them dinner.
At the end of the night, families leave with gifts in hand, of Christmas trees, clothes and school supplies.
“It’s one of my favorite events of the year,” Anderson said. “It’s why I love working here. A lot of good happens here.”
At this year’s Sharing Christmas dinner, Assistant Rector Suzanne Cate, who joined staff in July, is expecting about 220 dinner guests.
The reason St. James works exclusively with Westside Elementary, instead of choosing a cause inside city lines, is simple. It’s the same reason students are taken to Halifax Urban Ministries once a month to serve food.
It’s all about teaching kids early to break out of their home-turf bubble every once in a while and look beyond, and help beyond.
“I think it’s part of our job to help, and to help our kids see (the need),” Cate said.
St. James Episcopal School also collects books for its East-to-West drive for Westside Elementary School. So far, 350 books have been collected and donated to the school.
Call Erin Hindman, at 846-4693, to donate reading material or nonperishables.