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Feeding young minds, hearts

Cortland Playroom hosts traditional feast

KaLynn Kotanichek, 3, from Cortland Playroom Pre-School, eats a piece of turkey at the school's annual Thanksgiving feast.

CORTLAND — Despite the ongoing pandemic, Cortland Playroom Pre-School still held its annual Thanksgiving feast for its children.

Susette Zickefoose, director and administrator for the school, said they wanted to keep the 32-year tradition going even though it meant changes because the children can’t enjoy so many things already, such as an annual Santa Claus visit.

“We want to keep everything as close to normal as we can,” Zickefoose said.

Usually, the feast has the parents and the children eating together, but none of the parents have come to the school to help keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.

Zickefoose and the other teachers all prepare the food themselves. Typically, Zickefoose prepares the bigger food items, like turkey, potatoes and stuffing while the individual rooms would prepare side dishes.

Zickefoose noted the “downsizing” of the feast and explained that in years prior, she would prepare a large amount of food. Last year, close to 150 pounds of turkey was prepared for 91 students and their parents and this year the total dropped by more than half to just over 60 pounds for just 70 children.

“The theory of this is my appreciation to the parents for letting us serve their children. That’s why I always like to have the parents here. It’s just a ‘thank you’ to the parents,” Zickefoose said. “Without the parents, it’s hard.”

She also said she’s appreciative of the parents she has in the program.

“Every parent is so understanding. We have wonderful parents; we really do. We’ve changed so much around and no parent has complained,” Zickefoose said. “It’s been a tough ride.”

The school also takes all the necessary precautions to help keep everyone safe. Every student and every person who walks through the door gets temperature checked and has to sanitize their hands the moment they walk in.

“We clean, clean, clean, clean everything, and I have more cleaning supplies now than I have ever had in my life,” Zickefoose said.

She also said the students have been doing great with everything going on.

“If you didn’t know there was a pandemic, you’d never know there was anything different,” Zickefoose said.

As for the children and the feast, every student who was fed had a huge smile on their face, from the older ones down to the 1-year-olds.

“The turkey was really yummy and I really liked the potatoes,” 4-year-old Ryder Meyer said.

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