St. Johnsbury Academy students, teachers, and staff are gearing up for two community service efforts that have become Thanksgiving traditions.

For the 25th consecutive year, a 20-member team of students and adults led by Academy Culinary Arts instructor Jerry Prevost will prepare and serve complete Thanksgiving meals for about 400 young people at the Covenant House facility in New York City. Prevost has coordinated the project for the last 16 years.

Covenant House is the largest privately-funded nonprofit agency in North and Central America providing shelter and other services to homeless and runaway youth, according to the agency's website, www.covenanthouse.org.

This year's Thanksgiving meal project is expected to include 10 Academy students, including nine members of Culinary Arts classes; Chef David Hale, also an Academy Culinary Arts instructor; five Danville High School students, Danville teacher Shelley Gadapee, Academy bus driver Dan Keeney, Prevost, and his wife Crystal.

The Prevosts' older daughter Aimee, now a senior at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., and her roommate will join the effort in New York City, along with Crystal Prevost's brother David and his family.

During the project's first two years, the Academy students only made pies and rolls for the meal, which were then delivered to New York City. In the third year, and every year since, Prevost and the students were asked to travel to Covenant House to assist with the final meal preparation and serving. The pies and rolls are still made in St. Johnsbury, but the rest of their prep work is performed on-site at Covenant House.

Donations from Caledonia County residents take care of most of the ingredients needed to prepare the meal. Danville churches lead the annual fundraising effort in memory of Janet Wakefield, who coordinated fundraising for many years.

Additional information about the Covenant House Thanksgiving meal project is available by contacting Prevost at gprevost@stjacademy.org.

Meanwhile, the Academy's student-run Community Service Resource Center (CSRC) is coordinating a school-wide food collection drive aimed at filling Thanksgiving baskets for area families in need.

About 25 families were helped in the first drive, held 10 years ago. This year, the students hope to assist 160 families, said Academy social studies teacher Denise Scavitto, who coordinates the project. Students in the school's HALO program will bake fresh bread to be included in all of the baskets.

"Our students look forward to this project every year," Scavitto said. "They come together as a team to collect and sort the food, then assemble the baskets. "They are excited to take part in a service project that directly affects local families."

Donations will also be received from students, teachers, and staff at the St. Johnsbury School, area churches, and the Kingdom Community Services Food Shelf. Other supplies needed to complete the baskets will be purchased with funds raised through a Variety (dress-down) Day.

More information about the Thanksgiving basket project and other CSRC efforts is available by contacting Scavitto at dscavitto@stjacademy.org.

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