Olympic Heights National Honor Society collects Boca Helping Hands Thanksgiving meal boxes for those in need


Members of the Olympic Heights National Honor Society, under the direction Ms. Vanessa Koher (far right), collected over 200 Thanksgiving meal boxes for Boca Helping Hands.

Who doesn’t love looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast? Unfortunately, food insecurity is a reality in Boca Raton even though many are unaware of this community need. Thankfully, organizations such as Boca Helping Hands (BHH) are able to provide to those in need, regardless if it is a temporary or ongoing issue. 

According to its website, BHH is a non-profit organization that “provides food, medical and financial assistance to meet basic human needs as well as education, job training and guidance to create self-sufficiency.” During Thanksgiving time, BHH creates meal packages to feed those in need so that they may have a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy in some sense of normalcy as so many other do.

Olympic Heights incorporation with Boca Helping Hands

Olympic Heights partners with BHH to provide students with an opportunity to give back to the community. “Giving back to the community is something all high school students should learn,” OH principal Ms. Kelly Burke commented. ”We at Olympic Heights, try to instill this in our students so they will continue to do this in the future and be productive citizens in society.” 

The OH National Honor Society (NHS), under the advisement of English teacher Ms. Vanessa Koher, manages the distribution of empty boxes to students to fill with Thanksgiving dinner preparation items to turn over to BHH. 

“It’s important for students to help those less fortunate in need,” Koher explained. “The holidays are typically a joyous time for families, and it’s heartwarming to provide aid in the form of a Thanksgiving meal. I’m proud of the OH community for helping families have a Happy Thanksgiving.” 

Koher also shared that she enjoys giving back to the community just as much as those receiving the donations do. OH has been participating in BHH’s Thanksgiving Box Brigade project for nearly ten years which has been ongoing for 18 years. 

“I love that Olympic Heights has continued this tradition throughout the years,” Burke said.  “It is a chance for students to give back but also work with an amazing organization.” 

In filling the boxes, donors are asked to purchase specific items that are used as ingredients in order to create a complete Thanksgiving meal. “A completed box earns 10 hours of community service” Koher explained. Many students turned in two boxes and successfully earned 20 hours of service while benefiting their community. These boxes are picked up by the BHH distributing truck to be brought back to the distribution center so they can be properly handed out to those in need.

The community involved

Typically, the Boca Raton area is known for its high-end housing, wealth and stability. Many may be thinking, “Why would people help Boca? No one in Boca is in need of food or money.” This belief is anything but close to the truth. Suzan Javizian, Operations Manager and Food Drive Coordinator with BHH shared the reality that “It could be your next-door neighbor or the student sitting next to you each day in school. You never know who is in trouble or what life they may have at home.” 

The BHH soup kitchen is open Monday through Friday and hot meals are served from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Anyone who is hungry is more than welcome to stop by and grab a hot to-go meal. “Since COVID, we are packaging and distributing hot lunches to-go Monday through Friday in East Boca Raton,” Javizan explained. “We also provide hot to-go meals in Lake Worth only on Friday nights from 4:30 to 6 p.m.” 

Javizan shared that this program serves everyone in the community, and we understand that not all of Boca Raton is wealthy enough to feed themselves every night. For this program, “Clients register for a Thanksgiving box in October. This year we have 3,594 families registered for a turkey and a box,” Javizan explained.

BHH is an impressive organization and through its meal services program, it has made a meaningful impact on our community just by helping a targeted area. According to the BHH website, “Since our founding as a modest soup kitchen in 1998, Boca Helping Hands has become one of the largest nonprofit service providers in South Florida, now with 23 staff members and 300+ core volunteers assisting more than 27,000 clients annually.”