PHOTO STORY: Southside School honors veterans with drive-thru lunch event

Published 2:14 pm Monday, November 15, 2021

NILES — A local school’s annual event provided veterans with warm meals from the comfort of their vehicles.

Southside School, 1450 Silverbrook St., hosted a drive-thru lunch event in honor of Veteran’s Day Friday, Nov. 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Veterans ordered lunch from Southside students, who provided curbside service. Inside, students prepared the meals using the order and delivered the meals to the veterans’ vehicles.

“We have so many students who are working on job skills in our program,” said Southside principal Jeron Blood. “It’s basically like a short-order restaurant that we’re running. They’re here taking orders, filling orders and running stuff out. It’s pretty cool stuff. They get to learn those skills while appreciating veterans.”

Southside School is an educational center in Niles Community Schools that provides schooling for students from the sixth to 12th grade with behavioral special needs. The school also serves students with cognitive disabilities from 16 to 26 years of age.

“This [Veterans Day] program is designed for our veterans and to show the community how much we appreciate them,” said Southside teacher Jerry Scott. “With the students, it’s designed to help them build a sense of awareness of their civic responsibility as well as the build functional skills that they will carry for the rest of their lives.”

The annual event — coordinated by Scott and fellow Southside teacher Jan Maciulski — is typically held inside the school before transitioning to a drive-thru format last year due to the pandemic.

“We’ve done years and years of programs where everyone comes in and they’re able to do the lunch inside,” Blood said. “They share with each other and kind of network with each other, which is really nice. With the pandemic, we’ve moved to this model and this is kind of cool this way, too. We’re excited to get back to in-person potentially next year.”

In addition to the meals, each classroom created a banner featuring different wars veterans have participated in. Veterans who RSVP’d for the meal received student-created binders featuring “thank you” notes, poems and quotes of appreciation.

“The students you know get a chance to really understand a little bit more about Veterans Day,” Maciulski said. “The veterans enjoy what the students do because they always say things from their hearts, so that’s very important.”

“Every one of our students in the building did something for the veterans,” Blood said. “Everyone gets a little bit of something, so it’s a nice little event. They do a really good job.”

Blood believes the annual event not only benefits the veterans but also the students themselves.

“People might look at our students and think they need something, that we need to give to them,” he said. “We want to teach our students that they can give, they can contribute, and they can appreciate others and do things for others. That’s really empowering in a way that our students can put something like this together for other people because they’re traditionally a group of people that other people do things for them. It’s really nice to have the ability to do that.”