This year marked Gill St. Bernard’s 19th annual Turkey Day—a time-honored tradition in which the full school community collects and donates turkeys to support the Community Food Bank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), the largest state-wide anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization.
The Turkey Day Tradition first began in 2003 when Randi Schmidt, former GSB head librarian, heard a news report that a Food Bank truck loaded with nearly 1,000 turkeys turned over while driving on Route 287. While the driver of the truck was safe, the full load of turkeys was lost. In the true spirit of Gill giving, Mrs. Schmidt rallied the full school community to organize an emergency donation, collecting 500 turkeys in what eventually became our first-ever turkey day.
“Turkey Day is important for GSB because it finds the joy of giving and celebrates that joy,” commented Mrs. Schmidt. “It teaches children of all ages that each of us has a responsibility to help others.”
GSB invited Mrs. Schmidt and her husband Peter Schmidt, former Director of the Upper School, back to campus to take part in the 19th anniversary of her original act of kindness. In their visit, The Schmidts had the honor of throwing out the ‘first pitch’ before the annual Turkey Trot, in which three Upper School students compete in a foot race to represent GSB’s Lower, Middle, and Upper School divisions. While the Lower School has been victorious eight years in a row, this year’s race ended in a surprising three-way tie, with each division earning a special prize.
Since 2003, Gill St. Bernard’s has collected more than 6,000 turkeys, with a record 618 turkeys donated in 2019. That is, until one family’s generosity changed that this year.
Earlier in the week, past GSB parent Jill Gateman attended Upper School assembly to speak to students about community food banks and the incredible impact that food drives have on the local community. As a five-year member of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Mrs. Gateman explained the process for how food donations are collected and distributed to soup kitchens and pantries across the state.
“GSB’s generous donations each year have such a profoundly positive impact on the food bank,” said Mrs. Gateman.
“The significant volume of donated turkeys allow us to provide meals for so many in need. The outreach also provides a wide platform to create awareness around the organization and the meaningful work that we do. Gill has maintained a longstanding culture of giving back to the community and Turkey Day represents just one of the many ways in which the school underscores its philanthropic values.”
Mrs. Gateman also used her time to share statistics about the vast network of people in New Jersey who experience hunger and food insecurity. The CFBNJ estimates that 1.2 million Garden State residents suffer from hunger every day, with children comprising 400,000 of that total. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers have drastically increased, with an estimated 19.7% of children facing hunger since March 2020. To help strengthen Gill’s Turkey Day impact, the Gatemans pledged 200 turkeys to add to the school donation.
At the end of the day, GSB donated a record-breaking 658 turkeys to CFBNJ to help families in-need this Thanksgiving and holiday season.
We are incredibly thankful to The Schmidts, The Gatemans, and the full GSB community for donating to this worthwhile cause and continuing this signature school tradition!