Hosted by the Gilpin County School
By Jaclyn Schrock
Thursday, November 16, 2017 had stiff cool breezes on a clear and sunny day to encourage over 40 seats to be filled for the annual Thanksgiving dinner, free to Gilpin Senior Citizens in the big older gym of Gilpin County Schools on Highway 119 between Missouri Lakes and Pickle Gulch. In the four years Superintendent Dave McKenzie has been present to perpetuate this nearly 30 year traditional event, he was grateful for good weather that permitted the most guests to feel thankful they can get out and enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving dinner celebration.
Bob Masslich once again, enjoyed the traditional menu. He was on the school board in the early 1990s when the original part of the building was first opened, just before gambling came to Gilpin County. The kitchen and small gym, now used mostly by elementary classes, was where the first “free” senior lunch was held. There was one woman on the school board then who did not want to give away the lunch, but the others outvoted her, so the tradition began. Free Thanksgiving Dinner for local seniors is made by the school staff the day students also enjoy the traditional turkey, potatoes, gravy, fruit and vegetables of choice and pumpkin pie for their school lunch. Gilpin School cafeteria manager, Jane Yerkman, is honored to be able to plan, prepare and serve this fine meal made even better by sharing it with our residents who may struggle to make it themselves or event get out much.
As the guests of honor arrived at school with their escorts, the wind seemed to help push them into the building. Once seated at the eight tables in gym near the cafeteria, a sweeter breath of song was surrounding them. Directed by Misty Ebers, the middle school and high school choir did their warm-up exercises with their “do-re-mi” patterns. This group meets together each day for 8th hour to prepare for these kinds of events.
Twelve courteous and engaging 5th graders gave up recess to take turns welcoming the guests, some of whom were their grandparents. The young lads and lasses freely smiled and asked questions beyond simple drink, meal and dessert preferences. They shared names and listened as part of pleasant conversation. Once they excused themselves from conversation, the students went to the beverage table to fill their request. Not only did the students clearly speak the menu choices without a written menu, they scurried to the cafeteria serving line to carefully place the order at the table with the right new special friend.
The serving crew selected by their teachers for their willingness to show courtesy and speak easily with others were: Raygann Roark, Caedyn Marshall, Sam Hanssen, Gavin Knauss,. Andrew Davis, Connor Holloway, Sammy Kapke, Kiley Ralstin, Aubrey Allen, Aiden Zeilbeck, Juliet Ragan, Calla Brandon. Most of the servers adorned their finer outfits with the recently earned tie-dye bandanas. The whole school earned eagles for good choices of individuals and were rewarded with a tie-dye bandana.
Gilpin Elementary School Principal Heather Huntoon utilizes the PBIS philosophy, using positive behavior acknowledgement rather than emphasizing negative or punishment for students. This building-wide effort focuses students on the positive behavior by making a big deal of them, and downplaying attention for negative behavior. By perpetually recognizing good behavior in individual students (other students follow when they notice recognition given for good choices) a golden colored paper egg is given as a reward. 20 eggs from one class may be traded for a feather, displayed outside the classroom on an eagle picture. When the classroom has 20 feathers, their eagle is ready to give the class a reward. Gilpin Elementary staff encourages their students to SOAR, with their motto: Safe, On task, Always caring, and Ready to grow.
As the serving of drinks occurred, conversation quieted a bit. The combined middle school and high school choir finished their warm ups and began singing songs we all wanted to hear. My America began with “purple mountain majesty.” The next song we heard was about pushing through the snow. The next song had a fun rhythm with lines about “I’m never changing who I am.” The seven high school students sang about “a whole new world.” Combined choirs then sang Hanukkah Festival of Lights. Next was a song with a unique rhythm and percussive accompaniment, followed by a song about “three wishes for everyone I meet.”
Before the deserts were served, the choir took a break so that Beth McCheney from Parigold Activity Club (PAC) could thank the many folks who made this event possible. Parigold Activity Club with Community Action Program PAC/CAP began in 1971 with a monthly meeting over coffee. The group wanted to bring outing opportunities to the many residents on fixed income, so made a once a month lunch possible, paying what you could and finding the rest of the funds in the coffee can used for donations. PAC has only six members of the original much larger group who provide care and support for our area seniors. Bob Masslich makes the monthly reservations for lunches. Rides to monthly events to get folks out of their home and connected in the community are available with other supportive services with Mary Ellen and Gilpin County Senior Program.
Gilpin School Superintendent Dr. David MacKenzie welcomed Thanksgiving Dinner guests for his fourth year and proudly reminded them that Gilpin School has earned highest ratings to be accredited with distinctions. He also commented on the success of the election last week to help make possible technology being in every student’s hands. High School Principal Alexis Davidson was participating and was recognized for her contributions. Dr. MacKenzie thanked Elementary Secretary Joni Schmidt for coordinating and preparing for the event. Custodians Ron Berg and Ken Petersen were very necessary and thanked for their services. The student servers and choir members were recognized for the ways they helped make the event memorable. The cafeteria staff was presented and appreciated wearing holiday aprons: Arlene Garcia, Lisa Kennedy, Addy King, Imy Rich, Abby Kennedy, and Jane Yerkman. With many rounds of applause and thanks were shared, as this event is “Thankfully “purposed, Beth McCheney came back to the microphone.
Then Ms. Beth asked, “Who had a December birthday?” Two persons sitting together and from another table a third hand was raised from the seniors enjoying their monthly lunch gathering. The choir stood back up to lead us all in a round of Happy Birthday for these special folks. While pumpkin pie was served individually the Choir finished their program. First was Shenandoah, followed by what sounded like the melody of Lord of the Dance.
The guests were leaving through the lines of students who were now being served their traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at Gilpin School Cafeteria. Thankfulness appeared to be very contagious.