Smouse Students, Staff Open School Doors for Thanksgiving

Nearly every corner of Smouse Opporunity School played host to a Thanksgiving feast for students, staff and families.

Those not yet in the mood for Thanksgiving should have come to the annual feast yesterday at Smouse Opportunity School. For a couple of hours the historic school became a multi-floored restaurant serving turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie to one and all, as has been the tradition for more years than anyone can say for sure.

The students are fed, as usual. But tables line the long upstairs hallways so guests including their families, community supporters, school board members and district central administrators may join them. And they do.

Smouse Principal Leslie Timmerman was the grinning maître d’, the hostess in maybe the mostest special of all the DMPS buildings.

For thirty-one years, the Thanksgiving Feast has provided a welcoming outreach to families, community members, and staff whose work has supported students at Smouse. The event was designed to provide teaching opportunities about manners, life skills, and gratitude. After classrooms participated in Thanksgiving activities, students were escorted to the Thanksgiving Feast, which served more than 100 students and nearly 300 friends and supporters.

Let naught but happiness dwell within these portals,” reads the inscription in the archway above the main entrance of premises listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And that’s just the beginning. Apropos of Tuesday’s annual celebration, an old reprint of Albertine Randall Wheelan’s painting “On to the Feast” hangs in a 3rd floor corridor, just down the hall from an autographed photo of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that FDR sent to the school at Christmastime in 1933.    

Smouse is a living monument to the man whose gift began it in 1931, Dr. David Smouse. A plaque on the first floor asks that “each one find his work and in that work a joy in service and faith in humankind.” Those words are attributed to Dr. Smouse’s wife, Amanda. And it would seem that her wish for the school has come true. Mixed with the familiar aromas of Thanksgiving wafting from the cafeteria were the distinct sights and sounds of joy and faith.

For all the history still evident at Smouse it’s also being kept up with the times. An elevator is being installed and plans are being formulated for other impending updates. Thanks to more than due diligence on the part of district General Counsel Pat Lantz, some set aside mineral rights in Texas that were part of Dr. Smouse’s bequest to the school that bears his name have begun paying huge dividends. How best to use them is under consideration by a site team headed up by Timmerman and DMPS Chief Operations Officer Bill Good.

Someday soon another plaque may be called for in the same spirit as the big one outside the school’s offices. It was commissioned by the members of the school board when Smouse first came to the educational rescue of Des Moines’ most uniquely challenged kids and reads in part: “the deepest sense of permanent gratitude for a contribution to the happiness of childhood.” Besides Dr. Smouse it thanks everyone who worked on the project and “served with high idealism and unswerving devotion in conceiving, planning and erecting the school.”

Just as Dr. Smouse’s original gift keeps on giving, those long ago sentiments extend to everyone connected with the school today. It’s a nourishing place. On Tuesday you could fill yourself up without even taking a bite.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos from the Smouse Thanksgiving Feast

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