Throughout November, many schools focus on teaching students to be thankful and the importance of displaying gratitude. Students at Ridge Park Charter Academy are learning the value of giving back to their community. Every year, students decorate over 1,000 themed placemats to donate to Mel Trotter Ministries for their annual Thanksgiving Community Meal, taking place on Thanksgiving Day.
“I like the connection with the community that this project provides,” said Lisa Walejewski, paraprofessional at Ridge Park. “Our students look forward to this every year. They know they are doing this for people who are less fortunate and that their placemats will be featured at the Thanksgiving meal.”
The school has worked with Mel Trotter for more than a decade, decorating and donating more than 16,000 themed placemats during that time. This year’s placemats feature Thanksgiving-themed artwork with words of encouragement and compassion, two of the school’s Moral Focus virtues.
“We believe everyone is made in the image of God and deserves love and dignity,” said Abbey Sladick, vice president of communication at Mel Trotter Ministries. “These placemats are more than decorations. They are a special touch to help our Thanksgiving guests know how much they are valued and that their circumstances don’t define them. We are sincerely grateful to the Ridge Park students for not only sharing their artwork with our guests but also taking time to share a meal and hear their stories.”
Last week, Walejewski led a group of middle school students from the school on a trip to visit the Mission. During the visit, students dropped off the placemats in preparation for the Thanksgiving Community Meal, taking place this week. While there, students also took a brief tour and dined with Mel Trotter’s guests to gain a valuable perspective on how others in their community live.
“We all need to realize how grateful we are for the things we take for granted,” said Walejewski. “Our school is excited because this is a great experience for the students and creates a memorable trip for our middle schoolers.”