A Woodburn senior decided to raise funds for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for his senior project, but he walked away from it with more than he expected

by: MATT GEIGER - Enrique Martinez Soto, a senior at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy, gears up for serving food at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday.Woodburn senior Enrique Martinez Soto has worked to increase awareness and funds for the Woodburn Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which was last week, but he wasn’t prepared for the amount of support he would receive.

In just three weeks, Martinez Soto raised $1,620 for the Thanksgiving meal and also spent the entire day, helping set up, serve and clean up for the event.

“It was a success,” Martinez Soto said. “Our goal was to feed 500 and ended up feeding 669. It was just a great experience, getting to meet a lot of great people, people who are willing to give back to the community.”

The senior, looking for a topic for his required senior project, had turned to the Woodburn football team’s defensive line coach Matt Geiger for advice.

“He talked to me about what he wanted to do in life, either social work or as a counselor, and so I presented him with this opportunity,” Geiger said.

Geiger and his wife had helped out in the past with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, which is a free annual meal for the community held at Soul’s Harbor Church of the Nazarene. Martinez Soto admits he hadn’t heard about the event before, but he immediately liked the idea.

“I thought it was something really great,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be volunteering every year from now on.”

The senior at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy left a tip jar at Geiger’s American Family Insurance office and visited local service clubs.

“I gave a quick speech to tell them what I was doing and we just passed around the pot and tried to get as much money donated (as possible),” Martinez Soto said.

On Thanksgiving Day, Martinez Soto showed up at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until 5 p.m. He also brought along some friends and teammates.

“I learned there are a lot of people less fortunate,”?he said. “If you help people, it will come back to you.”

Geiger said he was impressed with how Martinez Soto took the project and just ran with it.

“I think he’s learned a ton and I wish more kids would do projects like this,” Geiger said. “He’s actually gotten better with his communication skills and has gotten to know people and build relationships.”

Martinez Soto still was able to go home and share a Thanksgiving meal with his own family.

“They’re all really happy and proud of me for doing it,” he said. “That’s what motivated me, my family and friends, and my grandpa, especially, because I’ve never been part of anything this important.”

For more on the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, see Page 8A.

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