WOODS CROSS -- Students from Woods Cross High School served a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless Thursday night, and in the end, it was difficult to tell who benefited more from the experience.
For sophomore Katie Hill, being part of the event that reached out to as many as 150 homeless people was a lesson she couldn't learn from a distance.
"It makes me want to not ask for anything," she said as volunteers served meals to people bused in from Salt Lake City to be part of the festivity. "I'm just so grateful for what I have."
Katie was one of many students who had a hand in the event. Approximately 65 to 75 percent of the student body, including 30 clubs, played some part in the dinner, said Jennifer Sadler, a student adviser at WHS.
The school orchestra and jazz band performed during the dinner, and participants were given practical gifts of hygiene kits and other sundry items before they left.
Children of the homeless who came were entertained and also given special gifts before they left. Some simply enjoyed filling their pockets with some of the small pieces of candy in the center of many of the tables.
Sadler said the event promotes what she calls a "human exchange" between those who are going through hard times and students who are exposed to something they don't have a lot of experience with.
She hopes the event helps students learn how to treat others with dignity.
The experience is close to home for some students, who could easily be on the other side of the table, Sadler said.
For some of the recipients, having a holiday meal -- with tables laden with gifts for them and their children -- was more than they could have expected.
"This is so nice of these young people. What a beautiful display of charity," said Ayoa, one of the homeless women who took part. Ayoa describes herself as a traveler who has been to 22 states, but she said Utah has been different from other places.
In the state less than a week, Ayoa said she has never seen charity given as openly anywhere as it is in the Beehive State.
She said she fell into her current plight after getting skin cancer and being placed on unpaid medical leave. She said many people would be surprised how many of the homeless women at the shelter where she is staying have college degrees.
Inelise, a homeless woman from Connecticut, participated in the event with her two young children. She describes her current plight as frustrating, but said the dinner and the gifts of kindness meant a lot.
"You have your ups and downs. It's not an up (her current condition), but it's better than living under a bridge," Inelise said.
Held in conjunction with National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, the dinner marked the 18th consecutive year the school has hosted an event for homeless people in the region.