TOWER- Thanksgiving is a family affair, and for the students at Vermilion Country School, that meant cooking for their in-school family, which totaled more than 50.“We asked the students if …
TOWER- Thanksgiving is a family affair, and for the students at Vermilion Country School, that meant cooking for their in-school family, which totaled more than 50.
“We asked the students if they wanted to invite their families to the meal,” said VCS Director Mary McGrane, “but they told us this was their family.”
The idea to cook a full holiday meal came from the school’s event planning committee, which is headed by Check and Connect staffer Stacy Gallus. Check and Connect is a new program, funded by St. Louis County, which provides additional supports for students in schools throughout the county. In addition to mentoring students, Stacy also decided to create a student event-planning committee, open to all students.
McGrane started the meal with words of thanks to all the students and staff who had helped with the meal. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke about her short time at the school so far.
“I wake up every day and am thankful to be here,” she said. “You are all amazing human beings.”
She reminded the students how much the staff, school board, and volunteers care about the students at VCS.
Gallus said she had asked the students to come up with a simple idea for their planning committee this month, and while this was obviously not a simple event, she was clearly impressed with the work the students put in to make the meal a success.
“You wanted to do Thanksgiving with your family here,” she said, noting that included her.
“It’s not easy being the new kid,” she told the students. “You have invited me in.”
“Today this is our home,” Stacy said. “I am so grateful that I ended up here.”
“I serve 30 at my house every year for Thanksgiving,” Gallus said. So, cooking for this crowd wasn’t too far from her usual experience.
Gallus had plenty of helping hands in the kitchen. Students volunteered for all the prep work and cooking involved, learning the recipes and techniques, how to use some of the kitchen appliances needed, and even how to carve the turkey.
Other students made decorations, set the tables, and made nametags for students, school staff and a few invited guests. VCS staff all kept busy helping to get everything ready for the meal.
One student showed off the homemade cranberry sauce, which they had cooked. Students made pies using premade pie crusts with their own choices of fillings, zesting citrus over the whipped cream topping. Teacher Al White brought in his Grandmother Berndt’s homemade stuffing recipe. The potato peeling committee had a lot of work to do, and then started mashing them by hand because the large stand mixer was acting up. (It got fixed once all the hand mashing was done.)Students learned to make gravy from scratch, make marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, and a classic green bean casserole. Olives and pickles were arranged on serving trays. Students got the two large turkeys out of the broaster and watched and helped as Al carved the meat onto serving platters.
The meal was served family style, with plates passed around tables set up in a large square.
Afterwards, staff packed to-go meals that were delivered to two students and families who were quarantining in their households due to COVID.
Friends of VCS helped with the costs of the food and decorations.
Gallus said she wasn’t sure what the event committee was planning for December, but was sure it would be another special day at Vermilion Country School.
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