Capital High School junior Jose Medina stood in an assembly line at 7 a.m. Tuesday with the aim of distributing holiday cheer.

He and about 15 schoolmates boxed up traditional Thanksgiving meals for homeless families. Each package contained a turkey, stuffing, canned goods, rolls, milk and other items.

“Without this, a lot of families would not have a Thanksgiving dinner,” Medina said. “That is a sad reality.”

He and other Capital students worked with the Rotary Club of Santa Fe’s Interact Club to raise money for about 150 Thanksgiving meals for homeless students and their families. The students joined district staff members, community volunteers and Rotarians to package the meals in the school district’s BF Young Administration Building.

Interact Clubs teach leadership skills and stress community service to students age 12 to 18. Club members are expected to perform one local community service and one international community service project each year.

This is the fifth year that Santa Fe’s Interact students have raised thousands of dollars in cash and food to provide needy families with meals for Thanksgiving.

Toby Wright, a Capital High teacher who serves as the Interact Club coordinator, said money to buy the food came from Rotary members, businesses and teachers from several local schools — “including some who agreed to take a pie in the face in order to raise funds.” In addition, the Capital High kids collected nonperishable foods outside the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

“Our students want to share the blessings they receive by being able to contribute to the community and help them celebrate an American holiday in a traditional way,” Wright said.

Gaile Herling runs the district’s Adelante Program, which provides support services for the district’s homeless students. She said the Capital High Interact Act club members know an unpleasant truth.

“There is hunger in their own school and throughout Santa Fe Public Schools,” she said.

Herling said about 930 Santa Fe students in grades K-12 are considered homeless under federal guidelines, meaning they do not have a consistent place to live.

Including children who are not in school yet, she estimates there are more than 1,200 Santa Fe kids who are homeless and probably hungry.

As she watched the Capital High students carry in and load up the boxes of food, Herling said it’s inspiring to see youth work for the good of the community.

Capital High School junior Yesenia Ornelas said students whose families cannot afford to buy food to make a Thanksgiving meal probably don’t want to let others know about their troubles.

“They are reluctant to talk about it,” she said. “It’s a stressful situation.”

Wright said Interact Club members are still working on choosing an international community service to work on once this project has been completed.

Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.