High school students at Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center in Richland Township showed last week the true meaning of Christmas.
The 30 or so students in the culinary class, along with other students from the school and volunteers from the community, made Christmas merrier for others by preparing and serving them turkey dinners.
The meals were provided to children and their families at The Learning Lamp’s three after-school, outreach locations in Johnstown.
Dinners were served at the Prospect site Dec. 16, followed by Moxham on Tuesday and Oakhurst on Wednesday.
More than 150 dinners were served.
The students collected the food for the dinners through a food drive coordinated by student Catie Van Slyke.
Catie, a culinary student, said the project was a team effort.
“As a school and as a culinary shop, we worked very hard on the project,” Catie said.
The students worked to collect food for 11⁄2 months. Any food not used was sent to a food bank to help more families during the holidays, the senior from Westmont Hilltop said.
“The gratification that we got from making these dinners for the children of Johnstown was overwhelming,” she said. “It isn’t just food to these children. It is a holiday.
“The food brings the spirit of the holidays to the children. It makes them feel special and gives them the warmth that every child deserves at this time of year.
“In return for seeing their smiling faces and full bellies, we as students feel that this is a truly priceless gift to us. It is the best gift that we could want for the holidays.”
The three centers help the children with homework and give them the opportunity to excel even more than they do already, she said.
“While the dinners are a gift to the children during the holidays, the dinners also are a gift to the wonderful employees and volunteers who work at the centers,” she said.
Evan Johnson, also a culinary student, said all the students worked hard on the project.
The project showed the students the importance of being involved in the community and helping others, said the Windber Area senior.
“We prepared turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and a green bean casserole,” he said. “For dessert, we had chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.”
Another student, Gary Stoykovich, a senior from Ferndale Area and also a culinary student, also was instrumental with the dinners.
“I like being helpful,” he said about why he was involved.
All the students and their culinary teacher were a big help, he said.
The dinners were thoughtful events for The Learning Lamp to hold, he said.
For their efforts, the three students are the Persons of the Week
Angela Rizzo, development director at The Learning Lamp, said the dinners were started as a way to connect The Learning Lamp with the families of the students it serves.
“The help we’ve received from the GJCTC culinary students has been huge,” she said.
“We’re so thankful to them for helping to create great family memories this holiday season.”
School Principal Nate Harfield said he is proud of all the students.
“Catie had taken the initiative to organize a food drive to offset the cost of the meals that were prepared,” he said.
“She also thought it was important that all of our programs had a chance to participate and get involved in this community service project.
“At GJCTC, we realize the importance of being valuable parts of our communities. We want to install that type of awareness and participation in every student whom we educate.”
Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10. Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.