Turkey, mashed potatoes, and fellowship bring together students and families in Joplin.

“We want to welcome you tonight. This is our first annual Friendsgiving,” says Shally Lundien, Columbia Elementary principal.

Columbia Elementary hosted the inaugural Friendsgiving Thursday night for more than two hundred students, friends, and family.

“We’ve created an opportunity that we wanted to invite all of the family, all the kids that go to Columbia and their family members to come in and have a free dinner tonight to celebrate friendship, to celebrate Thanksgiving, and just to provide a meal to them,” says Shally Lundien.

One school mom came up with this economical concept to feed every family at just two dollars per person, all paid by the PTO.

“I just actually joined the group this year. There are four different officers and I’m just a mom and they were kind enough to let me roll with this idea. I’ve done Friendsgivings with friends before, but now it’s really special because the officers were helpful,” says Tracy Horton.

With fun activities and a warm meal shared with fellow classmates, parents, and staff, teachers at Columbia Elementary want to blur the line between school and home.

“School and home go together hand in hand and we want them to know that they’re always welcome here. A lot of times there’s a disconnect between home and school and we don’t want that. We want them to know anytime they’re free to come here. They’re free to visit with kids and visit with staff,” says Shally Lundien.

“I think it’s important for the students or my children to see their teachers as moms or aunts or friends, just real people and that they can just gather around the table with them,” says Tracy Horton.

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