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Winona Senior High to serve close to 400 meals at annual Thanksgiving dinner
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Winona Senior High to serve close to 400 meals at annual Thanksgiving dinner

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made this holiday season a difficult one, but the Winona Senior High Student Council is hoping to make it a bit easier with their annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Tuesday.

Instead of the traditional setting that saw Winona’s retired community able to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal inside the Senior High concourse, this year’s dinner will be a drive-thru/pick up style.

“The WSHS Student Council knew that there would still be a need to be filled,” student council advisor Jackie Stevens said. “So we came up with an alternative so that the retired community members could still receive a meal.”

Community members, who reserved meals by the Nov. 18 deadline, had the option to choose between picking up their meal at Winona Senior High from 5 to 7 p.m. or have it delivered from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

All meals are free and paid for by donations from area businesses. One can make a donation if they wish when they pick up their food.

Those picking up meals won’t have to leave their car as a volunteer will meet them on their passenger side of their vehicle where they will take down one’s name with the number of meals they registered for before bringing a meal that consists of the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, vegetables, stuffing, a Bloedow’s Bakery bun, dessert and a bottle of water. Traditionally, they serve between 250 and 300 meals. This year, 384 meals have been requested compared with 275 last year.

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“This Thanksgiving is going to be different than any other Thanksgiving over the last so many years,” WSHS activities director Casey Indra said. “Some of these cases, the seniors may not have families that will be here this year. So we just felt as a district, this was still a good thing to do. We can do it safely.”

Like seemingly everything in life right now, planning this out has not been easy.

According to Stevens, the student council had been planning the event since late September, working closely with school administration and staff in order to be able to continue the tradition of at least 10 years in a safe manner during these challenging times. But those plans had to be reworked after Gov. Tim Walz released his latest orders on Wednesday, calling for the pause of all student activities. So instead, staff will be volunteering in place of the students, who are barred to complete any physical, face-to-face help.

It was a bit disappointing for the students, but the fact that the event can still go on during these difficult times is a triumph for the Winona community.

“The community always comes out in full force,” Indra said. “The amount of people that donate money, time and supplies just because it’s such a worthwhile cause is awesome. … It’s just unbelievable to see the number of people in business that help out with this just because.”

Donations can be sent to WSHS Student Council Attn: Jackie Stevens at 901 Gilmore Ave., Winona, MN 55987. Donations received after the event or beyond the cost of the event will be used for next year’s dinner.

“The community always comes out in full force. The amount of people that donate money, time and supplies just because it’s such a worthwhile cause is awesome.” Casey Indra,

WSHS activities director

“The community always comes out in full force. The amount of people that donate money, time and supplies just because it’s such a worthwhile cause is awesome." 

Casey Indra, WSHS activities director

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