An assembly line of Lost River high school students converted a mountain of donated food stuffs into more than 20 portable boxes of local goodwill in the school’s library last week.

The boxes, which the students loaded with a multitude of kitchen staples, would have a roasting pan, dinner rolls and a frozen turkey added to each one before being delivered to families in Merrill and Malin just in time for Thanksgiving.

The turkeys were courtesy of the Martin’s Food Center in Merrill, the dry goods were donated by the Lost River student body and the over a dozen students loading the boxes were members of the leadership class — all of which were upholding a decades long tradition of giving back to the community for the holiday.

Jen Johnson, the high school’s leadership and ASPIRE coordinator, said she remembers putting together the boxes when she was in junior high through when she graduated from Lost River in 1988. The leadership adviser back then, Dennis Ross, started it, she said.

“This is a time of giving. This is Thanksgiving,” said Johnson, who is also the school’s librarian. “It’s something that they just have always said, ‘We got to keep this going.’ The community loves it. We love it. And it’s just something that’s never lost its oomph.”

With everything going on in the world, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the fact that it’s just much more expensive to have a Thanksgiving meal this year, the meal boxes will go a long way in helping local families, Johnson said.

“I love how this goes to local families because our community does so much for us,” said Lost River senior and ASB representative Michelle Ruedas. “So, it’s nice to give back.”

Each class at the high school gets in on donating non-perishables, which this year began in October, said Jasmin Hernandez, the associated student body president and vice president of the senior class. This year the junior class brought in the most food — 159 items — to win an ice cream party, she said.

Hernandez too said it’s great to give back to the local community, especially one so small and tight knit like those around Merrill and Malin.

“We’re all very thankful for our community because our community obviously is small,” Hernandez said. “They do so much for us that we love giving back to them.

Plus, giving back is a great experience for any student.

“Not only do they get the experience to give back, but it’s just, they can feel good about it,” Hernandez said. “I know many of my classmates, they’re gonna keep doing this in the future after they graduate.”