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Around the UFT
Thanksgiving Luncheon

Camaraderie and coats for children in need

Around the UFT
A student gives a thumbs up
Jonathan Fickies

A 9-year-old gives a thumbs-up to the new coat he received at the UFT’s Thanksgiving Luncheon on Nov. 19 at union headquarters, while UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Richard Mantell, who coordinated the event, enjoys the child’s reaction.

"Good job!" Ilyana Frias told a 5-year-old kindergartner from PS 92 in Harlem as he worked at a craft table during the UFT's Thanksgiving Luncheon for children in need on Nov. 19 at union headquarters in Manhattan.

Frias, a UFT special representative for District 75, was speaking over the growing cacophony of 160 children — more than a third from asylum-seeking families bused to the city from Texas — who were having a fun-filled day of activities and an early holiday dinner of chicken and potato puffs with ice cream for dessert.

Each child went home with a brand-new coat, gloves and a hat, thanks to the generosity of UFT members in this year's Thanksgiving coat drive.

"This is what Thanksgiving is truly about," said UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Richard Mantell, the organizer of the annual event

The children engaged in activities and crafts from creating their own paper airplanes to beading necklaces to painting skulls with liquid tempera.

Students pose with a teacher in costume
Jonathan Fickies

Students make a new friend in Rashad Brown, the union’s perennial Thanksgiving turkey and one of dozens of members and staffers who volunteer their time for the annual luncheon.

There was also a "Beauty and Glam" station where students from Queens Technical HS provided manicures and painted fingernails.

Andrea Lingstuyl, a cosmetology teacher at the school, said her students were learning a valuable lesson. "My students are seeing that it's very important to be giving back," she said.

Shaquieta Boyd, an administrative education officer in the Bronx, volunteered for the fifth time and brought her 10-year-old daughter, a student at PS/MS 95 in that borough. As part of a team that works to provide homeless students with a quality education, Boyd said volunteering at the event is rewarding because obstacles in her job mean "we often can't solve problems. This is one of the times when we get to see the joy of the work." Boyd said it was also eye-opening for her daughter to see students who seemed just like her but have very different needs.

At the end of the event, the students lined up quietly to get their winter apparel.

UFT members, both in-service and retired, had donated 1,200 new coats and contributed $15,000 as of Nov. 22. UFT members from Fort Hamilton HS in Brooklyn collected $802 for the coat drive.

Whatever winter apparel is not distributed at the Thanksgiving Luncheon is given later to schools with high concentrations of students in temporary housing. This year, Mantell said, the union will focus on schools with large numbers of migrant students.

One 2nd-grader, wearing a new blue coat, said the giveaway was her favorite part of the day.

Her mother, Shawtenay Lewis, had a different view. "The best part," she said, "is we all came together and we [had] Thanksgiving together."

Related Topics: Middle Schools