Lakisha Ayers-White and her student volunteers provide supplies for Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to dozens of union families
For Lakisha Ayers-White, a bus driver and vice president of Flagler Education Support Personnel Association (FESPA), her union is a family. “We’re not just there to collect dues. We hear you, and we want to show you that we’re there to assist you in any way possible.”
In early 2020, Lakisha decided the best way to serve that family was by putting on a Thanksgiving dinner drive. That first event would be delayed by Covid, but Lakisha got a chance to put her plan into action in 2021, raising enough donations to feed more than 40 FESPA families.
In its second year, the Gobble Event grew thanks in large part to Lakisha’s ability to bring her community together. Planning for the 2022 Gobble began all the way back in the first week of August, when Lakisha sent out a survey to FESPA members asking if they would like to receive one of the Thanksgiving dinners.
Within three days, 20 families signed up. Within two weeks, Lakisha says she was forced to close the application window after more than 50 families joined the list. Concerned about rising prices, she wanted to ensure they could provide a full meal for as many families as possible. “This year the turkeys alone were $1,200,” she said of the 2022 event.
FESPA members initially thought they were only getting a turkey, but Lakisha’s dreams were much bigger. “I said, ‘No, you’re getting a complete meal.’” With the help of generous donations from the Florida Education Association, the Flagler County Education Foundation, Publix and others, FESPA was able to provide a full dinner, complete with turkey, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, brownie mix, juice, and even plates and utensils.
“All we wanted them to do is cook their food and sit down and eat with their family. From the dinner to the dessert taken care of, that’s what we wanted to do for them.”
The 56 families that arrived on Nov. 15 to pick up their meals didn’t have to lift a finger, thanks to a group of special volunteers. Student volunteers were recruited from Matanzas High School and Flagler Palm Coast High School, to oversee signing the members in, leading them to the elevator (and even pressing the button for them), and loading the dinners into the members’ cars.
The student volunteers were excited to be able to give back to their custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other education staff professionals. “When the members came and recognized some of the students, that made it even more emotional.” The students even held bake sales to help raise additional funds for the donations and are excited to participate in future events.
Lakisha wants the Gobble Event to continue to grow in the future and encourages other unions who are interested in connecting to their community to explore events like this.
“Many people think unions are just there to get your money. But we are a family, so, therefore, family helps family. That’s what we’re doing. We’re showing [members] that we’re a family, and we’re going to do what we can to help you.”