The idea started in 2000, with 13 students in the Vernon Township High School Hunger Project under the guidance of teacher-coordinator Fran Spielhagen. Twenty-one years later, and tweaked by Covid restrictions, the October turkey dinner at the high school lives on. This year’s dinner is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16.
The dinner benefits Harvest House in Sussex, a non-profit organization that provides daily lunches to families and individuals in need. It is run by Peggy Behnke, Denise O’ Connor, kitchen manager Kelly Immesberger, and about 35 dedicated volunteers. “All the food will be prepared by volunteers at the high school and served and distributed to diners in a take-out fashion,” said Behnke.
The menu offers all the trimmings, including gravy for the freshly roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables, dinner rolls, and cranberry sauce. Dessert will be seasonal pies donated by local supermarkets like Weis, Acme of Vernon, and Shop Rite of Ledgewood. Other local sponsors include the Farmside Garden Center, GDS Foods, ShopRite of Warwick, BJ’s of Riverdale, the Franklin Wal-Mart, Holland American Bakery, Sodexo Food Service, and the Sparta Community Food Pantry. Behnke says the dinner will feed about 500 people.
This is the second year that the dinner will be strictly take-out. Diners can pay at the front door of the high school and pick up their meals from an area near the cafeteria from 4 to 7 p.m. DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) students will again bring the orders to vehicles on the pick-up line.
The annual poinsettia sale in early December is another Harvest House fundraiser. The plants are hothouse-grown in Pine Island, N.Y., with sales based out of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Highland Lakes.
“New volunteers are always welcome to join us at Harvest House,” said Behnke. “And donations of napkins and paper towels are always high priority.” For more information about the dinner or volunteering at Harvest House, call 973-875-6445.