School District Hosts Annual Thanksgiving Dinner

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the New Paltz Central School District hosted its 25th annual Thanksgiving holiday meal for seniors on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Lenape and Duzine Elementary School. 

For decades, this annual tradition has provided seniors of the New Paltz community with comforting, homemade plates of roasted turkey, stuffing, broccoli, dinner rolls and apple pie, with students providing entertainment, artwork and assisting in serving the seniors. 

“Students are always involved,” said Rosemarie Zaccaria, manager of the cafeteria at Lenape Elementary School. “There are about 10 to 12 selected students who serve the senior citizens and it’s a really nice gesture because they provide company and entertainment with the choir.”

Students not only sing several songs of choir, but also provide set up, such as creating artistic placemats and table decorations for the meal. Along with singing songs, students also play several ensembles of string and brass instruments. 

Students from third, fourth and fifth grade serve food in teams of two, carefully serving food and bringing the trays to seniors, explained Zaccaria and are supervised by adults from the school. 

Most of the food is prepared in the middle schools themselves, noted Zaccaria. The cafeteria staff makes the salad, broccoli and set up tables for coffee, tea and other beverages. 

“It’s a real Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “Everyone gets together to help out and enjoy time together.” 

Sponsored by the New Paltz United Teachers and the central school district, this annual Thanksgiving dinner invites all seniors from the district at no cost.  In previous years, about 80 seniors are seated in each elementary school, totaling an estimated 160 senior residents between the two schools, according to Michael Robinson, the district’s food service director. 

Reservations were encouraged since previous Thanksgiving dinners have filled up rather quickly. Although this year Robinson realized that the event should have had better advertising since there were less reservations this time compared to previous years.

Robinson has been part of the collaborative New Paltz tradition for 22 years, starting in 1995 after working for SUNY New Paltz food services for seven years. 

“I’ve been doing this for so long; it’s nice to see the regulars, catch up with them and watch them have a good time,” Robinson said. 

When asked why the tradition is important to the district, both Robinson and Zaccaria  acknowledged that it is a staple because it shows appreciation for the seniors of New Paltz, and the sense of community that is shared shows how connected everyone is regardless of age. 

“This event gets seniors connected with the school district and the kids, which is important since some don’t have a family,” Robinson said. “This is our way of showing thanks and appreciation for them.”