Every day, hundreds of students walk the halls of J.M. Hanks High School. As they make their way through the bustling campus, they may be thinking about this week’s football game, their next date, or what University they’ll be applying to.
But around this time every year, they all begin to think about their fellow El Pasoans who will not have a Thanksgiving meal.
I was able to sit down with Hanks Student Advisor Monica Lopez, and Carolina and Maxine, two students working on Hanksgiving.
“Hanksgiving began the year after I got here,” says Monica Lopez, “in 2001.”
When Hanksgiving first started, it was student council bringing in blankets and different donations. “One day,” says Monica, “me and the student council sponsors got together, and Hanksgiving was born.”
That first year, there were only ten baskets distributed to families in need; according to Monica, the students were frustrated.
“They wanted to do more,” says Monica. “so, we went from ten to eighty to over a hundred.” Then, one day, the student president said, “How about we do five-hundred?” And that’s what they’ve been distributing ever since.
Often, they will feed more than five-hundred families.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve always gone over,” says Monica. “People come through at the end; they see me panicking, that we need this or that.” People come in and help meet that need, in what’s lacking, and exceed that goal.
She adds, “It never fails…it’s a worry to me, and the kids say I worry too much.”
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and Hanksgiving, Monica begins to receive phone calls. People are wanting to know if they will receive a Thanksgiving basket. Schools begin calling to send in their lists of those in need- and the students at Hanks and its feeder schools go out and identify those families in need.
Can you imagine what it must be like for a family that cannot meet the basic needs of daily living, much less how they are going to feed their families? Hanksgiving is working to step in and meet that need on Thanksgiving so that people may come together and share a meal knowing that the community cares for them, and wants to help them.
“Hanksgiving has always been near and dear to my heart,” says Monica. “Each year, the officers who come through, know how much of a commitment it is, and that they need to get it done. They don’t want to be the ones who fail.”
“Hanksgiving is important because we help out the community,” says Carolina.
Carolina has been involved for the past four years. Maxine has been involved in elementary school.
“It allows me to see what families need, what they are missing, that I have that I should be grateful for,” says Maxine. “It allows me to open up my eyes to see the community and be able to say that I helped the community.”
“The fact we impact so many lives is really eye opening for us,” Carolina said. “We take advantage of many things in our everyday life that other people don’t have.”
Then there was the time Monica was a local restaurant. “A few years back I was at a restaurant and was wearing a Hanksgiving shirt, and a lady asked me how I know about Hanksgiving. I told her I was the organizer and she thanked me because we helped her out one year.”
Hanksgiving does touch the lives of those who receive food baskets. But those students who work on the project, it touches them as well.
If you would like to help Hanksgiving organizers meet – and exceed their goal this year – you can drop off your donations of turkeys, yams, stuffing, and more at one of the following locations:
November 5th – Walmart at Cielo Vista from 9am to 2pm
November 11th – Walmart on Saul Kleinfeld from 9am to 2pm
November 12th – Walmart at Cielo Vista from 9am to 2pm
You may also call Ms. Lopez, Monday thru Friday at 915-434- 5014 or also donate through their GoFundMe page.