AUBURN — The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has helped middle and high school students at a local alternative school program have one more reason to be thankful this holiday season.

The annual Franksgiving celebration has been a high point of the academic year at the Franklin Alternative School and Merrill Hill School. Traditionally held during Thanksgiving week, the event brings together the school community for a family-style meal catered by students in the program’s culinary class.

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic making the school’s cooking classes and large family-style gatherings impossible, it looked as though Franksgiving would have to be canceled.

In a program created to find innovative ways to help the most challenged students succeed, staff doesn’t easily accept the word “can’t.” School Principal Melissa McLeod called Shanna Cox, president and CEO of the chamber, to see if a local business would be willing to sponsor individual Thanksgiving meals for students. As it turned out, the chamber had some funds left over from their earlier effort to prevent hunger among those economically impacted by the pandemic.

Working with Boba, a southeast-Asian inspired restaurant in downtown Lewiston, the chamber will provide individual bento-style lunches for the approximately 80 students at the school to have during an afternoon of “virtual connection activities” for the school community.

The kids at Franklin work hard to manage school and overcome barriers that most students don’t have to navigate. “When we were presented with an opportunity to support a community meal for the Franklin family, it felt like an obvious fit with the excess Community Food Challenge funds we had from the height of the pandemic,” said Cox.

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