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Feasting with Purpose: Project SHARE’s Thanksgiving Dinner Marks 34 Years of Giving Back


With the ever-growing homeless population in New York City, the Project SHARE Thanksgiving Dinner is an attempt to do something about it. The dinner has been a joyous occasion at Hastings High School for 33 years, and this year marks its 34th anniversary. In 1987, Jeanne Newman, the founder of Project SHARE and former Hastings High School art teacher, got involved with the homeless community after witnessing the conditions that the homeless were being subjected to in New York City. This inspired her to contribute to Midnight Run, which was the start of her immense impact at Hastings High School. Two years after getting involved, Jeanne wanted to develop a more intimate relationship with the people she met on the streets. With the help of her students, volunteers, and businesses willing to donate, she orchestrated the very first SHARE Thanksgiving dinner. 125 homeless men were brought to the Cochran Gym and served a homemade dinner. Jeanne States, the atmosphere of the dinner has not changed since 1989; it has always been and will continue to be “a very big family dinner, nothing gourmet about it.”

This year, Jeanne is expecting to bus in between 650 and 800 homeless men, women, and children, as well as 250 to 300 student volunteers. With so many people there to dine and celebrate, an immense amount of preparation is required in order to ensure the success of the dinner. Even after all of the donations and contributions, Project SHARE still has to raise about $25,000 to cover the expenses of buses, paper goods, and more. Despite the large sum of money to be raised, businesses in and around the community are willing to offer support. For instance, this year, Butterball is donating 65 twenty-pound turkeys, which would normally cost approximately $2,000. These turkeys are cooked with the help of various companies, including Marina del Rey Caterers in the Bronx and Sam’s Italian Ristorante in Dobbs Ferry. While businesses provide the main course, volunteers prepare the other components of the meal during the three days prior to the dinner. Students and families work for hours each day making mashed potatoes, chopping vegetables, peeling apples, and cooking the other dishes that bring the Thanksgiving meal together. Jeanne recognizes that this dinner “would not happen without the kids” and appreciates all of the effort they put in. Overall, enough food is produced to feed 1,200 people. While the preparation for the dinner is time consuming and “inefficient,” the work put into it never fails to result in a beautiful night for everyone involved.

On November 21, 2023, all of the hard work will come to fruition for the 34th time. The longevity of the dinner is what Jeanne considers one of its most special aspects, and she recognizes that “this dinner, for a lot of people, is the only holiday celebration they will have,” which is the reason that the dinner continues to happen and grow every year. Since 1989, Jeanne Newman has been giving back to the homeless community through this dinner and says she will continue to do so for the rest of her life. Jeanne compares her experience to Alice in Wonderland, saying that she “fell down a rabbit hole and never came back.”

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