June, 24 2017

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Utah Troubled Teen Program Gives Back

One man's desire to serve and give back to the community has turned into more than 30 years of a generous Thanksgiving tradition.

Frank Habibian, owner of Red Rock Canyon School, hosted his 37th annual free Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday for everyone and anyone who needed a meal.

The History of This Tradition

"This has come to be a tradition of my life and family," Habibian said. "Doesn't matter what time you come, we feed you."

Habibian's son Sherman oversaw the dinner this year. His father hopes he will take it over next year.
Sherman Habibian said he looks forward to the opportunity.

"It's been a part of our whole family's lives," he said. "This is our Thanksgiving and I think it would be weird to stop."

How Red Rock Canyon School and the Community Play a Part

Hundreds of people work to prepare and serve the dinner for the community. Volunteers include students from the school, their families and local business owners and employees.

Debbie Anderson, coordinator over the dinner, has been working at the school for 15 years. She said it takes a team effort to put the dinner together.

Anderson said she starts reaching out to the community in about mid-September for donations.

Sherman Habibian said the great thing is they receive donations from more than 70 companies in the community and several of the professional cooks and butchers come out to help prepare and serve the dinner.

Round the Clock Preparation

"The day before Thanksgiving we go around the clock preparing food," Anderson said.

The dinner impacts those working on it and eating it.

"I love to see people's joy in their hearts and eyes because they love to serve the community and the people," Anderson said. "Sharing the blessing of Thanksgiving is the greatest blessing of all."

The Blessing of Being a Volunteer

Jim Webb, owner of restaurant American Grinders in the Fort Pierce Industrial Park, said this was his second year volunteering.

"I loved it so much I came back and did it again," he said.

Webb said he loves giving to the community, but he's usually so busy with his business he can't give back the way he wants to.

"The energy here is great because we all feel good about helping people out," he said.

How it helps Troubled Teens Reach Out

Students at Red Rock Canyon School aren't required to help, but a lot of them volunteer anyway.

Katherine Westover, 17, has been attending the school for two months. She said even though most the students want to help, not all are selected.

Westover said at home in Idaho she is very community-service oriented. While attending Red Rock Canyon School, the students rarely have the chance to get out in the community to serve.

"Instead of going to where the help is needed, the help comes to you and you help the best you can," she said.

Westover said although the day is chaotic, it's a fun chaos because there's always something to help out with.

"I don't think we've ever had this many in one kitchen," she said.

Nale Fakahua has worked at the school for almost five years with the female students. He said the dinner is an opportunity to teach the girls the value of giving and self-concept.

"This dinner teaches these girls that it's better to give than to receive," he said.

Fakahua said this type of service strengthens their self-concepts and helps them get a sense of who their true-self is.

"They themselves build up their own positive self-concept with service," he said. "Rather than always having some external reinforcement, service is an internal reinforcement or validation."

Sherman Habibian said last year the dinner served about 1,100 people. This year they hoped to serve about 1,200.

Mark Reiseo was one of many who came for the meal. He said he heard it was good last year and decided to take a few people with him this year.

"It's beautiful and wonderful because the people try so hard to make it good, and it's great," he said.

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