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Parkrose Community Thanksgiving dinner becomes reality

The idea for a community Thanksgiving dinner has been percolating in Parkrose for years. This year, due to the hard work of four district staffers the idea became reality


Parkrose Middle School Principal Molly Davies greets student Thanh Trinh, while Rick Phung colors Tom Turkey and Nicky Tran mugs for the camera at the inaugural free Parkrose Community Thanksgiving Dinner hosted for Parkrose families in the middle school cafeteria.
The four amigos who planned, organized and pulled off the inaugural Parkrose Community Thanksgiving Dinner are, from left, Annette Sweeney, Parkrose Middle School vice-principal, Chris Sullivan, Sacramento Elementary second-grade teacher, Stephanie Murdock, PMS eight-grade teacher, Mario O'Brien, Parkrose High School math teacher. PMS Principal Molly Davies joins them.
Stephanie Murdock, Mario O'Brien, Chris Sullivan and Annette Sweeney are enrolled in the Initial Administrator License program at Portland State University. They want to become school vice-principals and principals, even superintendents someday. They meet weekly for a formal class session, but much of the training in this program comes from hands on experience with district administrators. One requirement for completion of the program is a community service project.

That's when the Thanksgiving dinner idea bubbled to the surface again. This time in the form of a way to fulfill the IAL course requirement.

The catch?

The group had only a handful of weeks to come up with a plan and funding. After getting the green light from district Superintendent Karen Fischer Gray, they went to work. In two weeks time, they had raised the required $3000 in cash donations they would need to purchase food and supplies and the inaugural Parkrose Community Thanksgiving Dinner was born.

According to Murdock, an 8th grade teacher at Parkrose Middle School, the group wanted to host a community Thanksgiving dinner that would replicate a dinner at home. They accomplished that and more.

Invited by Parkrose Middle School staff, where son Thanh attends and oldest son Tony used to, Hanh Tran brought her children to the inaugural dinner. “The school invite the family here to be a happy Thanksgiving together.” She doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving because she does not have family here. Tony is a freshman at Parkrose High School Community Center across the street.

The tables were decorated with fresh flowers, music played softly in the background, each table setting included a printed menu and flatware rolled in a colorful napkin tied with satin ribbon. As guests arrived, Gray and Sweeney greeted them at the door. Hostesses then escorted families to tables where volunteer servers welcomed them. Children were provided with crayons and Thanksgiving themed drawings to color. The menu included turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, green bean casserole, cranberries, dinner rolls, pies, and milk, apple juice, coffee or tea.

About 70 volunteers were on hand Thursday afternoon to help serve 150 guests in the cafeteria and to prepare and deliver meals to homebound families. A like number worked Wednesday evening setting up the tables. Bonnie Wagner, the middle school cook, and Noah Caudle, the custodian, gave up their day off to help.

O'Brien, an algebra teacher at Parkrose High and a newcomer to the district, said he has found a sense of community in Parkrose that he has found nowhere else. He sees this dinner as a real extension of that and along with the other organizers plans to make it an annual tradition.
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