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COOS BAY — A teacher at Marshfield High School is helping feed families in need this week.

Leadership Adviser Jennifer Bunnell has been working with students and fellow staff members to build Thanksgiving baskets for the past 14 years. This year she has seen more of those baskets than ever before.

“In 2016 we had 41, but this year we have a total of 53 baskets,” she said. “There is just more need this year.”

Thanksgiving baskets are just that: baskets filled with the needed ingredients to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including a turkey.

Combined with these baskets are pre-cooked meals for families without cooking facilities. These are put together by the MHS Charity Program, previously known as Mr. MHS.

“I’m not sure why we are seeing more families in need this year,” Bunnell said. “I don’t know if people are more comfortable with us, if they are aware that we do these baskets every year, or just that there are more families out there who need help.”

In October, Bunnell sent out a blast email through the Coos Bay School District requesting that staff members keep an eye out for students who may need these baskets once the holidays came around. Families are chosen, forms filled out and sent to Bunnell who calls to confirm that the baskets are still needed. Often many of these families are chosen by the At Risk Kids (ARK) Program that helps needy families throughout the year.

“Giving these baskets out means that families get to have a nice dinner when they wouldn’t have before,” Bunnell said.

She recalled giving out a basket last year to a woman who started crying when she saw what was inside.

“She told me that she had been saving half a chicken and two potatoes for her and her granddaughter as their Thanksgiving meal to make it special,” Bunnell said. “She was overwhelmed by the generosity.”

For Bunnell, the hungry members in the community fall near and dear to her heart.

“I see just how much these baskets mean to people,” she said. “I like that this time of year makes everyone stop and think about things like this, to be grateful for what we have and to reach out to others.”

During her advisory class, she had her students write what they were thankful for and put those notes on display in the hallway.

“The holidays are great, but a lot of our kids struggle during these times,” Bunnell said. “I hope everybody has happy holidays and continues to give to those in need.”

To help pay for the turkeys for this year’s Thanksgiving baskets, checks can be written out to Marshfield Leadership and dropped off at either the high school or administrative offices.

“If we get any extra money, it means we can put something together for Christmas,” she said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.