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Guiness Book, Giving Are Reasons For Dinne

Thanksgiving is usually associated with turkey, football and family. But this year, several students at Robinson Secondary in Fairfax wanted their fellow classmates also to remember those less fortunate, over a meal of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Students with Robinson's International Baccalaureate (IB) program hosted a Thanksgiving potluck last Thursday to educate the Robinson community about the area's homeless. To do that, students asked their families, teachers and fellow classmates to bring in canned goods and clothing to give to the local Salvation Army.

Organizers wanted "just to bring the community together for a good cause," said Robinson senior Laura Fresco of Fairfax Station. "We're trying to help people in need."

Fellow senior Caitlin Glass, also of Fairfax Station, agreed. "And especially this year, we're so blessed."

The potluck took place in conjunction with a national event organized by an Orlando-based, youth leadership nonprofit called America's All-Stars. The event aimed to organize concurrent Thanksgiving dinners nationwide, in hopes of qualifying it as the world's largest Thanksgiving dinner according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Senior Saba Shahid of Burke, the lead student organizer of the Thanksgiving dinner at Robinson, discovered the record-breaking opportunity while looking for service projects as vice president of the Key Club.

"I thought that this would be perfect for our school," Saba said.

She approached the IB sponsors, who then embraced the idea. Planning for the dinner took two weeks. Robinson's PTA president sent an e-mail to parents notifying families of the dinner, and both middle- and high-schoolers were invited to the event.

"I've just had so much fun working with these cool kids," Saba said.

Normally, the American All-Stars collects monetary donations, but that isn't allowed in Fairfax County Public Schools. They opted for canned foods instead.

At the potluck, diners piled their plates while listening to music performed by several Robinson instrumentalists.

Capt. Vic Tidman, commanding officer of the Salvation Army for Fairfax, was "very excited to be here." He would deliver a keynote speech later that evening. "The children have worked so hard to share with those who are less fortunate with the community," he said.

Throughout the evening, the bins filled up with nonperishable foods.

"They [Salvation Army] will be coming in tomorrow to pick it up," Shahid said.