On December 13 and 14, Berkeley High School (BHS) will be hosting its annual Holiday Meal, which will include new features such as showers and laundry services. This event is one of the most popular acts of community service performed by many of the students at BHS. At the event, less fortunate members of the Berkeley community receive a hot meal, warm clothes, and any toiletries they may need.
A recent addition to these amenities is a laundry service and showers for the guests to use. The planning committee expects roughly three hundred to four hundred people in attendance for this year’s Holiday Meal on December 14.
“We would love to help as many people as we possibly can,” said Mia Stein, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and the current associated student body chief of service at BHS.
However, adding new amenities such as showers and laundry service is much easier said than done. “We weren’t sure it was going to happen because we didn’t know if there was the right piping and connecting to the sewer, but recently we found out that we can,” said Stein.
Regardless of the uncertainty of whether or not such a feat would be attainable, the planning committee felt as though it was essential that they at least attempt to make it happen. “We would be missing a big opportunity if we didn’t try it because it has the potential to really change people’s lives, even if it’s in a small way,” said Stein.
Lena Haber, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) and a member of the planning committee, said, “This will be executed through a service that will come and bring portable showers and laundry to BHS on the day of the Holiday Meal.”
Haber is a strong supporter of the implementation of showers and a laundry service; she believes “both of these services give [the guests] back the dignity that is stripped from them in everyday life and gives them an opportunity to command more respect from the community as a whole.”
In addition to the showers and laundry service, Stein wants to focus on gathering donations for warm clothes for those in need. This initiative comes after challenges with collecting outerwear for last year’s Holiday Meal. Last year, the lack of warm clothes disappointed many guests. Stein reported that many of the guests arrived at the meal excited at the thought of receiving new warm clothes for the approaching winter. However, not enough warm clothes were donated by students, and many attendees left the event empty-handed and discouraged. “It just felt like we didn’t do enough, so this year that is something I really want to push and change,” said Stein.
Another aspect Stein wanted to work on at this year’s Holiday Meal was the decorations and the overall set up. According to Stein, last year’s decorations gave off the impression of being “thrown together” with unevenly distributed flowers and hastily decorated tables.
Stein has made it her mission to make this year’s Holiday Meal a much more warm and cordial environment.
Stein hopes that even when she graduates from BHS, the Holiday Meal planning committee will continue to improve. “I would want the shower and laundry services to stay and to be built upon and improved,” said Stein.
In addition, the planning committee will try to address the lack of underclassmen participating in the Holiday Meal. This year is the first time there has been a freshman on the planning committee for the Holiday Meal. Stein attributes the lack of freshmen to the limited space, which tends to be filled by upperclassmen who know about the event beforehand. Also, Stein believes underclassmen know fewer people in the school and may not feel as welcome.
The planning committee will be working to try to change this so that there is a better representation of the whole student body among the volunteers. Stein also hopes to draw volunteers from the wide variety of demographics present at BHS.
Finally, in contrast to last year, the planning committee will increase its efforts in outreach to reach as many people as it can. They will be putting posters up in shelters across the East Bay and asking the people they meet there to spread the word.
Their final strategy to reach people will be by walking through the streets and parks of Berkeley the afternoon before the Holiday Meal. Members of the planning committee will be handing out flyers in order to encourage people in need to stop by on Saturday for a warm meal and other necessities.