Students deliver turkey care packages to needy families

Kiki Nakauchi keeps tradition alive at LOHS

Live Oak High School senior Sarah Tidwell helps carry groceries that will go to needy families in the community as part of the annual Thanksgiving food drive.

Even at 87 years old, retired educator Kiki Nakauchi is determined as ever to teach valuable life lessons to Live Oak High School students.

Each year as the adviser to the LOHS Future Business Leaders of America, Nakauchi—who retired in 2000 after decades as a business/accounting teacher with Morgan Hill Unified School District—spearheads the club’s Thanksgiving turkey and care package delivery event.

Students collect canned food donations, help fundraise for the purchase of whole turkeys and other holiday staples, package the goods up and then deliver them to 125 needy families who live within the MHUSD boundaries.

“The delivery is what I really want the kids to see. Some of the deliveries are not in town. They’re way out in the country, in the orchards and in the fields, and their living conditions are really something else. That’s why we deliver instead of having them pick it up,” said Nakauchi, whose 94-year-old husband Yosh collects large apple bin boxes from local stores each year for the turkey care packages.

The Japanese-American couple were both held in internment camps during World War II before meeting in San Jose in 1961 and moving to Morgan Hill a year later, where Kiki started her teaching career.

For decades now, even after retirement and in their golden years, the Nakauchis see value in exposing local students to the challenges of some of the less fortunate families who live in the same ZIP code.

“I think it’s a good lesson for the kids to see that not everyone is as well-to-do as you guys are and they’re living in substandard housing,” Nakauchi said. “So when these kids are out of high school and college and working, they will support organizations that do something like this and they’ll have a little bit of an understanding. That’s my whole purpose.”

With only a handful of FBLA student members volunteering for the project, Nakauchi recruited other civics students who need the points for graduation requirements. She also got some help from members of the LOHS football team.

“It’s very humbling,” said 17-year-old Jakob Neumayer, who got a text from his LOHS football coach to get some teammates together to help out Nov. 14. “It’s a great feeling to help people in need and put someone else’s priorities before your own.”

On Nov. 14, a dozen LOHS students, along with Nakauchi and Bonnie and Al Cherry, were carrying boxes of canned and dried goods into the Food Services building on the east Morgan Hill campus. While most of their classmates will not return to school grounds until after the weeklong Thanksgiving break, some of those students came back to package the 125 bins.

“I’ve never done anything like this. I wish I would’ve started here earlier,” said senior Madelyn Martinez, 17, a first-year FBLA member.

A select few students took part in the deliveries prior to Thanksgiving. The San Martin Lion’s Club drove them around South County to different homes to deliver the Turkey Day care packages. Along with the Thanksgiving fixings and a 10- to 12-pound bird, each family also received a grocery bag filled with food including potatoes, fruits, rice, beans, tortillas, cake mix, spaghetti and flour, as well as toilet paper and a large container of laundry detergent.

“It just makes me feel good,” said 17-year-old FBLA senior Sarah Tidwell, who was part of the delivery team for a second year. “It’s really fun to go out and deliver the boxes and see their smiles and faces. … I’m learning just how much need there is in the community, more than we realized.”

It’s been a FBLA tradition at Live Oak HS for more than three decades, one that Nakauchi is finally hoping to pass along to another adult in the community who’s willing to be an adviser for the FBLA.

Al Cherry helps unloads boxes of Turkey Stuffing for Live Oak High School’s Thanksgiving food drive Nov. 14.
Live Oak High School senior Jakob Neumayer carries grocery boxes to help out with the Thanksgiving food drive.

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