One by one, paraprofessionals, school bus drivers, cafeteria employees and other Flagler Schools support staff arrived at the Government Services Building on Thursday, Nov. 18 and signed in with a volunteer.
They rode the elevators to the third floor, handed in their ticket and were greeted by Flagler Educational Support Professional Association vice president Lakisha Ayers-White.
"On behalf of FESPA, I want you to know how much we appreciate you," Ayers-White declared to each one.
Finally, volunteers placed "FESPA Gobble Baskets" in union members' vehicles -- 47 in all.
The baskets, actually bags of food and gifts, provided a complete Thanksgiving meal for the union members and their families, who had signed up. The bags included turkey, sides, drinks, desserts, plates, cups, napkins, utensils, plus a $35 Winn-Dixie gift card and a set of paparazzi jewelry.
All of it, including the bags themselves, was donated by community members and businesses, said Ayers-White, who organized the event, which she had been planning, in one form or another, for the past two years.
"I always hear how FESPA members, who are the support staff for Flagler Schools, are working two to three jobs to make ends meet," said Ayers-White, who works for the district as a school bus driver. "I wanted to do something to help and show them FESPA appreciates them and recognizes their hard time."
Originally, Ayers-White thought about a food pantry in her garage. That idea was quickly nixed by her husband, she said. Eventually, she came up with the idea of putting together Thanksgiving baskets for union members who signed up. The idea was put on hold last year because of COVID-19.
"This means a lot," said Matanzas High School ESE paraprofessional Orville Cunningham, as he signed in. "This will make a jolly Thanksgiving."
Volunteers included FESPA members; teachers; parents; students of all ages, including the Old Kings Elementary School K-Kids Club and the Flagler Palm Coast High Starlets; Angie Bush, the school district's food service director; Brun Hudson, FESPA's president; Dontarrious Rowls, the district's transportation director; and School Board member Cheryl Massaro.
"I am so humbled and overwhelmed by the love everyone showed to make this event go so well," Ayers-White said. "It really got me when members were so thankful and emotional upon receiving their basket."