Licking County News

Watkins Memorial High School

Key Club members help with community dinners


Watkins Memorial High School English teacher Katherine Hickman has so many students volunteering to operate a monthly community dinner that she had to separate them into shifts.

"It's so great to work with them," said Hickman who also serves as the adviser for the Watkins' Key Club, which in the last year has expanded from 16 students to 72.

Kiwanis International sponsors the Key Club, whereby high school student members of Key Club perform acts of service in their communities, such as cleaning up parks, collecting clothing and organizing food drives.

They also learn leadership skills by running meetings, planning projects and holding elected leadership positions at the club, district and international levels.

Locally, the Key Club assists the First United Methodist Church of Newark with its community dinner, held the second Wednesday of each month. Twenty of Hickman's Key Club students volunteer.

"It's really, really amazing," she said. "You can really see the need in the community."

Hickman said so many Key Club members volunteered for the dinner, that it was a little overwhelming to have them all arrive at once in a large group.

So, she divided them into shifts. The first shift arrives around 3 p.m. to set up tables, create nametags for the guests, and complete some meal preparation.

The second shift arrives at 5 p.m. ready to serve the meals, keep glasses filled, and clear dishes from the tables. It's not an easy job.

"The first hour is non-stop people coming in," Hickman said.

The dinner will accommodate anywhere from 300 to 460 people, said community dinner team member, Jack Shumaker.

"It's been a good experience for our church," he said, adding the difference in attendance is likely determined by the weather and, probably, what's on the menu.

Shumaker said St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Newark assists as well and local businesses, such as Texas Roadhouse restaurant, also contribute.

Hickman said it's obvious many people in the community count on the monthly dinner as one of the few hot, satisfying meals they're able to enjoy.

"You need to keep an eye out for your own community," she said. "First United is doing a wonderful job."

Hickman said the Watkins Key Club volunteers work hard, including vacuuming and cleaning up after dinners, but the church treats the students well.

"They totally pamper the kids," she said.

The church dinner is so popular, Hickman said, that it prompted her to think about what she and the Watkins Key Club volunteers could do for the rest of the county.

"I'd like to start something like this at Watkins," she said. "There's a clear need in Licking County."