This is the story of how one boy’s wish became a community’s gain.
Georgetown High School student Thomas Miller is just a freshman, but he was inspired to help a needy family enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
What started with the Miller’s helping one family snowballed into a joint effort from the school district, a local business, and the Georgetown Fire and EMS to provide a Thanksgiving meal to more than a dozen families in need.
Along with Miller and his family, the Georgetown Exempted Village School District worked with local business RTS to purchase a total of 15 turkeys to help give 15 families a Thanksgiving experience they’ll never forget. Other Georgetown residents and the Georgetown FD volunteered and spent money out of their pockets to purchase traditional Thanksgiving side dishes such as green beans, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, stuffing, and gravy, as well as country time lemonade, pumpkin cookie mix, and brownie mix.
It was enough food to feed a family of five.
“It was amazing to me how quick it happened,” Georgetown Superintendent Chris Burrows said. “It was just a week ago Monday (November 16) that Thomas’ parents scheduled a meeting with me. After they left the meeting, I put it out on social media and I was hit with 15 people in five minutes saying whatever’s needed, I’ll help. We started with that one family that said we want to help one other family, and it dominoed.”
Commented Miller, “I was pretty surprised.”
One of those who answered the call for help on social media was Lee Gallenstein, an account executive at RTS.
RTS was looking for someone to partner with for a turkey giveaway, and once Gallenstein spoke with Burrows, the wheels began to spin very fast.
It wasn’t long before Gallenstein drove out in his truck to pick up 14 turkeys and deliver them to Georgetown High School, where he, Burrows, and members of the Georgetown FD took over packing all the food into boxes for the family.
“It was definitely something that we saw an opportunity and jumped on it,” Gallenstein said. “Here at RTS we serve local customers and customers across the country.
“I think it’s something that’s really cool and special about a town like Georgetown. A local business, school, and community come totherger and support 14 families we don’t even know. That’s something special and means a lot to me as an individual working in Georgetown.”
Another who called the school asking to help was the fire department. Six members volunteered to take time out of their day to deliver food to families in need, which the school had identified through a weekend food program for students on free and reduced lunch.
“The people in the department are all good, kind hearted people,” Georgetown Fire and EMS Chief Joey Rockey said. “One of the big reasons everyone is there is because they want to help their community. With the holiday season here, some had approached me and had asked if there was something they could do to help the less fortunate.
“I went to the school and I offered up our assistance if there was anything we could do to help them out. Mr. Burrows had asked me if we could help deliver some of the meals so I said we’d love to.
“We wanted to make sure the people know the fire department cares about the community. We’re not all about doom and gloom and we like to help the community any way we can. While most of us have a meal for tomorrow and the day after, we like to help out those in need.
“Hats off to the staff and to the guys giving up their afternoon to help do it. It’s pretty humbling when these people come to the door and they want to hug and thank you.”
Miller’s family said that they were stunned with the outpouring of support after bringing their idea to Burrows.
“We were actually really shocked,” Miller’s mother Christina Miller said, adding that the idea was discussed among the entire Miller family, including Thomas’ sister Haley Miller and father Ben Miller. “We didn’t think it was going to go that far of our kids saying ‘I want to help a family in need’. It just blew up. We were thankful others stepped forward and 15 families got a thanksgiving dinner this year.”
According to Burrows, as many as two-thirds of Georgetown students are on free or reduced lunch at school, and there are currently around 60 students enrolled in a charity program that gives them a backpack full of food on the weekends. Once RTS and the fire department got involved as well, Burrows began to make calls to some of the families most in need, asking if they’d like to receive a Thanksgiving dinner for them to cook for their family.
Some families said the food package would be fantastic, while others cried in appreciation.
“There were a lot of emotions,” Burrows said. “It was a very rewarding four or five hours that I spent on the phone, because you could tell the people willing to receive had deep appreciation.”
Burrows called the response to Miller’s request a “triangular approach.”
“It was the school, a business, and another community organization that worked together to do an awesome thing for people in need,” Burrows said. “That just brings me a ton of pride, seeing everybody come together to help out other people. And to think it all started with a freshman student that thought ‘I want to feed a hungry family’.
Speaking of Miller, he doesn’t plan to stop his charity within the community. Inspired by the actions of the Georgetown High School advisory period group, who helped clean up the Brown County Fairgrounds and rake leaves in town, Miller hopes to start another charitable endeavor for Christmas.
“It made me feel better about myself, better about the community, and better about the family,” Miller said. “It brought me pride too.”