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Sara Staker, a mother to five students who’ve attended Provo schools, didn’t build her first Thanksgiving Feast Basket knowing she would someday pioneer an annual tradition of community service. It started, as Sara shares, as a half-cooked hope to offer one meal for a single family.
Sara’s oldest son is now twenty-two years old, but sixteen years ago, he was just another first-grader at Westridge Elementary. Sara had several opportunities to visit her son’s class to work as an aide with students that year, many of whom were dealing with more challenging circumstances than others.
“You can’t help but notice that some kids don’t have warm coats or boots for winter. You can’t help but notice when some of those same students seem more desperate to win games with gifts and food prizes than others.”
As a parent, Sara had a firsthand account of the economic discrepancies between students. So, rather than accepting that knowledge passively, she took action. After speaking to Westridge’s Receptionist, Sara and the school coordinated to offer a basket full of Thanksgiving food for a family needing a Thanksgiving Dinner. Sara’s family gathered turkey, potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, stuffing, rolls, cranberry jelly, a pumpkin pie with whip cream and a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider to organize a basket to be anonymously gifted. That year, one Westridge family in need celebrated Thanksgiving with a little more than they expected, thanks to Sara and her family.
For several years, the Staker family continued their tradition creating just one Thanksgiving basket, handing it to the school to give to a family in need within their community. They even gathered donations from the neighborhood and installed a food pantry at Westridge as her son’s Eagle Scout project. By the frequent use of the pantry, Sara knew the need was more widespread than many might realize.
Eventually, Sara and her family began volunteering weekly with the Five.12 Foundation, an organization delivering weekend backpack meals full of food for children from families experiencing food scarcity. Sara and her husband Matt delivered close to thirty meals to Westridge elementary each week that first year. Knowing that number made Sara want to do more for the children at her school.
Then she had an idea. She reached out to a few friends, neighbors and family members that she knew it wouldn’t be an imposition to ask, and together they managed to create thirty Thanksgiving Meal baskets for all thirty of the kids at Westridge. And since then, her little operation has only grown.
“We have a wooden sign that hangs in our kitchen. It reads, ‘When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.’ We have tried to uphold that sentiment and create a culture of stewardship and service within our family, but the truth is that it’s already widely shared and practiced within our community.”
Eventually, Sara realized they could call on more people within the Grandview community to feed even more families across Provo City School District. They added Franklin Elementary several years ago and are now serving Dixon Middle School as well
One of the Staker’s sons created a Sign-Up-Genius web page to post requests for needed ingredients for the baskets and organize community donations. Families districtwide send food and money for the baskets so quickly that the window to contribute is typically only a day or two long before it is all filled. Sara’s family takes any leftover funds and writes checks directly to each school’s food pantry.
The baskets are loaded and delivered to each school’s Social Workers and faculty volunteers, who deliver the baskets to families in need.
At the core of our short interview, Sara wanted to reiterate that this story is about Provo.
“Throughout November, I have a renewed faith in humanity. Because it’s not just our family providing all these meals… It’s the community. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. Families helping other families. We have so many people who care but just don’t know how to connect with the people that need help. We are just giving them the opportunity to serve in a meaningful way, but they are the ones that make this thing what it is. I love that we are part of a community that will gather together and care for our own. It’s more than the meals. It’s the gesture.”
The Stakers hope that other families at other schools across Provo might feel the nudge to do something similar. You can reach out to them for help and advice getting started in your area.
The Staker family and their neighbors assembled the baskets on Monday, November 21, 2022. Keep an eye out for pictures of some of this year’s baskets on our social media accounts throughout the week.
We want to remind readers that many schools are conducting their canned food and Sub For Santa drives. If you are inclined and are in a position to do so, we ask that you reach out to your school’s front desk and donate this holiday season.