Wells Junior High School eighth-grader Everette Allen serves a meal during the school’s 21st annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Sunday.

Wells Junior High School eighth-grader Everette Allen serves a meal during the school’s 21st annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Sunday.

WELLS — About 400 senior citizens from York County packed the cafeteria at Wells Junior High School Sunday for a hearty meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the other Thanksgiving staples.

It was the 21st annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors put on by the school’s eighth-grade students as part of a project for their English class.

Emily Frisbie, a University of Southern Maine student who interns in the WJHS’s eighth-grade English program, said that the students started the project by interviewing residents of Sentry Hill retirement community and assisted living facility in York.

Wells Junior High School eighth-graders Daniel Metzler, right, and Kylie Nguyen place fruit cups on tables minutes before the school’s 21st annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Sunday.

Wells Junior High School eighth-graders Daniel Metzler, right, and Kylie Nguyen place fruit cups on tables minutes before the school’s 21st annual Thanksgiving dinner for seniors Sunday.

“Now we’ve been working on turning their interviews into oral history narratives,” she said. “So it’s a writing piece but it’s also connecting to the community. All of the residents they interview are invited to come to the dinner here, and this is kind of our big celebration, and other senior citizens in the community are invited as well.”

Beth Cilluffo, a WJHS French teacher who helped organize the event, said that all of the school’s eighth-grade students were involved in some way in putting the dinner together. “Some helped make signs and decorations, some helped with the setup of the dining room, some helped make pies,” she said.

Seniors came from several communities to attend Sunday’s dinner.

Loretta Denault, who lives in a senior housing facility in North Berwick, said she was back after coming to the dinner a couple of years ago.

“It was so much fun seeing the kids and how great they were,” she said, recalling her first WJHS Thanksgiving dinner. “They did such a great job and the food was wonderful.”

Diane Clemons, who recently moved to the same North Berwick facility, said Denault “raved” about the dinner so much that they both wanted to come this year.

Clemons said the event is a great way to get seniors, many of whom live alone, out of the house. “I also think it’s a wonderful thing to teach students community service,” she said.

About 80 WJHS eighth-graders were on hand Sunday, working in the kitchen and as greeters, hosts and servers. Many of the students working as servers described the fast-paced, restaurant-like atmosphere as stressful but also exciting, as they rapidly ran order tickets into the kitchen and ran out to deliver platefuls of food to the 36 tables.

“It’s stressful but fun,” said eighth-grader Ashleigh Bolduc, who was working as a sever. “It makes you feel good because you’re helping people, you’re giving back to the community.”

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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