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Karns City students collect, distribute meals

From left, Brooke Manuel and Abigail “Abby” Callihan set up their gift card tree and sold bracelets at various community events to raise money for the Christmas Dinner materials.Submitted photos

A Karns City High School senior chose to give back to her community in a big way Sunday.

Brooke Manuel and fellow student Abigail “Abby” Callihan distributed 40 Christmas dinners to families in the area as part of their project for National Honor Society.

Brooke said the honor society asks students to raise awareness for a cause in their senior year. After working on the Thanksgiving dinner with Karns City Communities That Care, she wanted to do something similar for Christmas.

“I worked with Kayla Smith on the Thanksgiving dinner, and it really brought the community together,” Brooke said. “I wanted to give back and do something for families for Christmas.”

Smith of Karns City Communities That Care said Brooke is president of the Inspiring Gremlins, a group that cultivates positivity at the high school.

“She's been a great asset to our group,” Smith said. “She asked if we could work together, and we worked jointly to give out presents and food.”

Smith said Brooke and Abby gave each family all that was needed for a fun Christmas meal, including ham, cornbread mix, stuffing, cake mix, and even gingerbread houses and playing cards.

To raise money for the dinner materials, Brooke and Abby went to local businesses and asked for gift card donations. They compiled them in a “gift card tree” and sold raffle tickets at $10 a piece. They took the tree to Karns City football games, the Christmas in Chicora craft show and Chicora Light Up Night.

Brooke said it took a few weeks to collect food for the meals.

“We had donation boxes at Holy Trinity (Lutheran Church) and Cummings Coffee collecting mashed potatoes, stuffing,” Brooke said. “Welter's (meat shop) donated the hams and boxes for meals to go in and 40 gallons of milk from Marburgers.”

At St. Paul's Community Church in Chicora, Brooke teamed up with Karns City Communities That Care to distribute the meals to families. Communities That Care also used this opportunity to give gifts to the families they serve.

“People were surprised, it's different and new and families were excited,” Brooke said. “It was cool to see.”

Brooke said she was grateful and surprised at the help she received.

“I didn't expect so much support we got from local businesses and churches,” she said. “We even raised enough to give a donation to Karns City Communities That Care's backpack program.”

Smith said she has known Brooke for a while, and that she's always willing to go the extra mile to help others.

“She's very kind, you love being around her. She's always willing to pay it forward,” Smith said.

From left, Abby Callihan and Brooke Manuel collected gingerbread houses to be included with the 40 Christmas dinners they distributed to area families.