Sue Lane has always believed that there’s more to school than learning your ABCs.
The Victor kindergarten teacher had a chance to experience that again firsthand Thursday morning after her class joined with the rest of the elementary school's students to pack a load of donated turkeys to the Victor Food Bank.
After the parade of turkey-toting youngsters finished their delivery and enjoyed one of the 392 handcrafted turkey cookies made especially for them by Roxanne Gouin, Lane’s students marched happily back to their classroom.
As soon as they finished putting away their coats, they offered their own surprise to their teacher.
“I am being showered in hugs,” Lane said. “Doing something kind and good makes their souls burst with joy.”
This is the fifth year in a row that Lane’s kindergartners made it their mission to ensure that others in the community would have a Thanksgiving meal to remember and that no one would go hungry. They collected 37 turkeys and one chicken to deliver to the Victor Food Pantry at the Bitterroot Valley Church of the Nazarene.
This year was different from the others.
Instead of the kindergartners carefully loading up several red wagons with frozen turkeys, they invited the whole elementary to help them make their annual delivery.
It was an invitation that was accepted with glee. Most of the school’s older students had already experienced the joy of helping others as a member of Sue Lane’s Turkey Brigade back when they were in kindergarten.
Many told Lane that they missed being part of that.
“Every person has a strong desire to do something good,” Lane said. “I think it’s inherently human to be kind and generous, especially when you’re little and you don’t have all the budgetary restraints that come along with being an adult.”
At Victor, Thanksgiving has become a time of the year that kindergartners have an opportunity to set a good example for others.
“When one person does something that’s generous and kind, it inspires others to do the same,” Lane said. “Our community gives us a lot of support. This is our opportunity to give back.”
For the founders of the Victor Food Pantry, the annual turkey brigade has become a day filled with smiles and joy.
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Bill and Roxanne Gouin started the food pantry six years ago.
On Monday, Nov. 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they’ll provide a turkey and all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings to anyone who walks through the door.
Every year is a step in faith for the couple.
“Our numbers keep going up,” Roxanne Gouin said. “But we’ve never had to turn anyone away. We never run out of food on that day.”
“It’s a God thing,” said her husband, Bill. “We’re always praying.”
The turkeys delivered by the school district are a blessing that touches a lot of lives in the Victor community. This year, the couple said they are still short of turkeys and other food items that people will need for their Thanksgiving meal.
“Donations have been down a little bit,” Roxanne Gouin said. “We still need some more turkeys. Actually, we need quite a few more. Whatever we don’t give out at Thanksgiving is offered to people at Christmas.”
If anyone can help, the couple encourages them to call the church at 642-3838.
The couple said the food bank could also use a 20 cubic foot upright freezer. They’ve had a couple of donated chest freezers break down this past year, which unfortunately resulted in the loss of some frozen food.
“We operate totally on donations from the community, members of our church and other churches,” Roxanne Gouin said. “It’s really important that we can care for our own. This community always rallies when there’s a need.”
Those who work at the food bank see that need grow around the holidays.
“We see people who we don’t see the rest of the year,” she said. “They keep saying that things are getting better on the news, but we’re not really seeing that too much here. There are people here who just can’t afford to spend the extra $50 to $75 for a holiday meal.”
“They really need that help,” Roxanne Gouin said. “We’ve been blessed every year that Sue Lane’s class helps fill our freezers with turkeys for people in our community. I don’t know what we would do without them. We appreciate their help so much.”