Education Writer

It hasn’t been easy for some families in Atlantic City to get a hot meal since Hurricane Sandy wiped out appliances and power.

On Thursday, the Venice Park School treated its 50 preschool disabled students and their parents to an early Thanksgiving dinner, then sent home takeout containers with leftovers for the whole family.

“We know many of our families lost their ovens,” teacher Lori Dean said as staff filled containers with turkey, gravy, mashed and sweet potatoes, corn, salad and cake for dessert. “If they have five family members at home, we’re giving them five more dinners.”

The school applied for and received a Families and Schools Together grant from the New Jersey Education Association to pay for the meal, which was prepared by The Doc’s Place in Somers Point.

Families sat at child-sized tables in the hallway to enjoy lunch with their children. Many are from immigrant families and were having their first taste of cranberry sauce.

“This is a whole new experience for them,” Dean said. “And they get a full, nutritious meal.”

Theresa Long ate with her 4-year-old son, Nicholas Phillips, who seemed to enjoy his meal. Long said they still don’t have heat, which is difficult because her son has suffered from pneumonia.

“We’re looking for another place,” she said. “Right now we’re using space heaters. But we’re doing OK.”

She accepted two take-home dinners, then agreed to take a couple of more so that everyone would have a hot meal. Dean said if parents could not attend, the meals would be kept warm and sent home with the children at the end of the day.

“We’ve got plenty,” Dean said. “We want to make sure every family has a Thanksgiving meal.”

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