HERMITAGE – More than 240 families will have a Thanksgiving dinner today because of a group of students and alumni, Sister Margaret Pellerite and a decades-old tradition at Kennedy Catholic High School.

The best part of the annual food drive is helping people, senior Madison DeVita said.

DeVita and classmate Reegan Patterson served as lead organizers for this year’s event — the 37th time students in the Kennedy Catholic Family of Schools joined forces to make sure local families in need would have a meal this Thanksgiving.

And working right alongside them was long-time advisor, Sister Margaret Pellerite, who was pretty proud of the student volunteers.

“A big ‘thank you’ for another job well done,” Sister Margaret said to the students just before letting in a long line of families waiting outside to collect their meals.

Students in Kennedy Catholic’s Action Club organize the event. But it comes together with the help of all the students in the Kennedy Catholic Family of Schools, including St. John Paul II Elementary School in Hermitage.

“JPII sent in excess of 1,000 items of food last week,” Sister Margaret said. “It’s phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.”

High school students lined up the meals, which included a turkey, stuffing and gravy, supplied by Sister Margaret’s Angels for Hunger, a group of Kennedy alumni working to gather donations from other alumni and local businesses for the Thanksgiving food drive. The turkeys alone cost almost $4,500, said Jimmy Resele, who has been an “angel” since 1979.

Families from both schools and alumni donated the other items and money for the rest of the meal.

“The people have been very generous all around,” Sister Margaret said.

Madison praised Sister Margaret for her work on the drive.

“Sister has been doing this for a long time, and we try our best to help her as much as we can,” Madison said. “Sister is really passionate about what she does in helping others in the community. We want to follow in her footsteps and do as much as we can to help others.”

For the past two weeks, the Action Club has collected, counted and separated canned goods. 

The group of students who will plan and organize next year’s event were very busy as well.

Sean Kirkland, Gianna Lepore, Nikki Risavi and Lili Glover, all juniors, made substantial trips to the grocery store over the past week.

“Yesterday we took eight vehicles to Aldi’s, backed them up to the doors and filled them up completely with palettes of produce,” Sean said. 

The students organized the donations into groups on the high school’s stage, then separated the items into individual meals, which were then lined up along the gymnasium floor. 

“It obviously takes a village to do this,” Risavi said.

The food drive means a lot to the students.

“It’s everyone at the school coming together to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to help others without expecting anything in return,” Kirkland said.

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