Project Rise and Kenmore-Garfield FCCLA Group Hosts 12th Annual Harvest Dinner for Local Families Experiencing Homelessness

FCCLA Students Serve Food They Prepared for the Attendees

On November 19th, Project Rise and Kenmore-Garfield High School hosted a special Thanksgiving event for families experiencing homelessness. This is the 12th annual Harvest Dinner event and the 3rd year that the event was held at Kenmore-Garfield High School.

Students Choose Books from CAB (Children and Books) Table with Chuck Bell

The Harvest Dinner gives Project Rise families and youth the opportunity to celebrate this festive time of year with food, fun and friendship. The evening included arts and literacy activities, parent-child activities, Thanksgiving dinner, giveaways, and entertainment. Altogether, around 115 attendees enjoyed the special evening.

Project Rise is a federally funded program through Ohio Department of Education. This program is a collaborative effort by Akron Public Schools, local shelters and the Akron community to provide supplemental educational services to children and youth experiencing homelessness. During the 2019-2020 school year, Project Rise identified and served approximately 2,080 students.

The food was prepared by KGHS FCCLA Group (Family Career & Community Leaders of America) . The student group is lead by Family Consumer Sciences Teacher, Cheryl Marez. Ms. Marez led her team of students in the set up, food preparation and clean up. The students fundraised for and prepared 12 turkeys, stuffing, mac and cheese, corn pudding and gravy. The KGHS Culinary Program (also FCCLA) provided mashed potatoes. Various staff members from KGHS also pitched in. Several teachers donated desserts and Phyllis Dinkins, Child Nutrition Specialist, helped ensure the food stayed hot until it was served.

Not only did the Harvest Dinner provide a wonderful meal for the students and families, but also engaging activities and giveaways. Before and after the meal, attendees were invited to visit activity tables hosted by librarians from Akron Summit County Public Library and CAB (Children and Books) who gave each child a new book. Cuyahoga Valley National Parks, Buckeye Credit Union, AMHA and the AMHA Spark Program also provided information and activity tables.

Project Rise Staff Members in the Photo Booth

The University of Akron ZIPS on the RISE volunteers helped with face painting and a photo booth activity. Project Rise staff brought Kodak instant printers and small photo albums so the families could take keepsake family photos home with them.

Attendees also had an opportunity to visit the giveaway tables where they received brand new socks, books, coloring books, hand-made knitted hats and scarves, tote bags and pillow cases. The socks were collected by Rimer CLC and Sam Salem CLC and the hats and scarves were hand-made and donated by the Knitting Knights.

Cheryl Marez and the FCCLA group pictured with Lisa Mansfield

After the dinner was served, Akron Public Schools Board Member, Lisa Mansfield, presented the KGHS FCCLA students with a proclamation of service and gratitude that will be recognized at the next school board meeting. The students were excited to meet Ms. Mansfield and have their photo taken with her.

Face Painting Activity with Volunteer from UA

The special event was coordinated by Project Rise Special Programs Assistant, Amanda Smith with help from Special Programs Coordinator Rachel Breece and Cheryl Marez.

Project Rise would like to thank everyone who came together to make this event a success. Without the support from Ms. Marez and the KGHS FCCLA Group, KGHS staff, community volunteers and partners, this event would not be possible. For more information on Project Rise and how you can help, please contact Rachel Breece at 330-761-2969 or

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