Guest blogger, Danielle Mahoney, has a special way to celebrate Thanksgiving that is perfect for the classroom. Along with honing their writing and art skills, students become part of a project that honors the spirit of the season.
Are you ready to get involved with a very special writing project this Thanksgiving? Help me as I deliver hot meals to homebound seniors on Thanksgiving Day. Being a part of this special event is easy. Inspire your students to create handmade cards, and write heartfelt messages that spread joy and lift the spirits of senior citizens throughout New York City.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Spending time surrounded by my family and close friends is a true gift. Add a few home-cooked recipes and it’s a dream come true!
In 2007, I decided to create a new Thanksgiving tradition. I thought about how fortunate I was to have so much to be thankful for. I knew that there were many families who were in need and I wanted to help in some small way.
I had heard about Project FIND, an organization with a mission to provide low- and moderate-income and homeless seniors with services and support they need to enrich their lives and live independently. They were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 1,200 seniors in the heart of New York City and needed servers. I was so excited to help! I gave them a call and spoke with Debra Escort, director of special projects. She thanked me for reaching out, but explained that each year, she was fortunate to find enough volunteers to help out with serving. Volunteers were needed somewhere else.
Debra offered me a very special volunteer opportunity. She explained that she needed drivers to deliver 300 hot meals to homebound seniors. Without drivers, the seniors would go hungry, as most support services would be closed on Thanksgiving Day. She informed me that along with the hot meal, I would also be delivering a gift bag to each of the seniors. I thought this was such a nice treat. When I heard what was inside, I almost cried. Debra explained to me that the gift was actually something very simple. Food.
You see, inside each gift bag was an assortment of dry goods and fruit — food that could be prepared with ease the next day. Most support services would continue to be closed on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Without this “gift,” the seniors would go hungry. With a lump in my throat, I agreed to become a driver that year, and I have been a volunteer driver with Project FIND ever since.
That first year, I invited my students to make a few simple cards for me to take along on my deliveries. It wasn’t long before I realized just how important this Thanksgiving project really was. I was touched and saddened as I visited the seniors and saw that so many of them were alone on Thanksgiving. I wanted to become involved with this work again in the future, but I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. And so I reached out to my teacher friends, and together we started Project Give. Beautiful cards have been made and delivered ever since.
Check out the smiles that my volunteer friends, Elaine Long, her daughter Julia, and my niece Olivia Collado got to see first-hand during our deliveries the last two years.
Your cards really do provide “hugs” to thousands of seniors. Thank you for taking the time to do such important work!
So many of you have become involved with Project Give over the years. Your time, creativity, and generosity have made all the difference. With your help, we’ve collected thousands and thousands of handwritten cards from all over the world. Incredible! Check out "Project Give — The Power of Writing" to view examples of student work and the journey the cards made to the seniors on Thanksgivings past.
Are you excited to get started? I can’t wait to receive your cards in the mail! Please follow these simple guidelines and let the card making begin!
Greeting: "Dear Friend" or "Dear Senior."
Have students introduce themselves, but please leave out last names.
Encourage students to write about their families and their holiday traditions.
Students can write about their favorite subject, book, sport, or activity.
Remind the seniors to enjoy the delicious meal, and let them know that they are not alone.
Please include a bright, colorful illustration.
Keep it brief and sweet.
Make sure the writing is legible!
Seniors have an easier time reading larger print on light backgrounds!
Get creative and have fun!
Please mail your cards to:
c/o Miss Mahoney
34-25 82nd Street
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
So are you ready for a new tradition? Have you been involved with Project Give in the past and want to participate again this year? Great! Here is your chance to make a difference! I look forward to receiving and delivering your cards again this year. Start your card-making project as soon as you can. Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Place your completed cards in a large envelope and mail them to me so that they arrive no later than November 19.
I’m making a list of things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving — yes, a gratitude list — and I’m starting with you! Thank YOU for taking the time to write for a cause!
May your Thanksgiving be filled with hot food, warm hugs, and lots of love.