A group of students with the human services program and CARE Club at Big Sandy Community and Technical College served an early Thanksgiving meal at the WestCare Homeless Shelter in Pikeville on Sunday. Shown are: Sam Perkins, Jennifer Butcher, Amber Knight, Tammy Ball, Maggie Joseph, Sabrina Hayden and Tonya Salyer. Cita Tackett, CARE Club president, and her daughter, Alexis Prater, are not pictured.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) students served an early Thanksgiving meal Sunday to people staying at the WestCare Homeless Shelter in Pikeville.

This marked the 10th anniversary of the pre-holiday feast, which is a joint effort of the CARE (Community Awareness Reaching Everyone) Club, students with the colleges human services program and Hope in the Mountains, a Prestonsburg-based drug and alcohol recovery center for women.

Each year, we walk away feeling that we get back so much in return, said Tammy Ball, who serves as coordinator of the human services program at BSCTC. Everyone we served today had a unique story of not only how they got here, but a dream and a vision of where they want to go. We are here to listen and to share in their hopes of a better tomorrow and a holiday season full of blessings.

Sam Perkins, a 28-year-old student from Salyersville, said he entered the human services program to be a part of the solution to the many problems in small communities.

I want people to know that no matter where they are, there are still people out there who care, Perkins said. This was a very uplifting experience, and this is something I want to be a part of even after I graduate.

The WestCare Shelter is home to approximately 30 people. They come from all walks of life. One person living in the shelter, who asked not be identified, said homelessness in eastern Kentucky is a real issue, and I am thankful that people care.

The person went on to add: I hope people remember us throughout the year, too.

Cita Tackett, 37, of Wayland, is the president of the CARE Club. She brought her 12-year-old daughter, Alexis Prater, to volunteer.

This is an eye-opening experience, Tackett said. We think about homelessness as a problem, but we never really think about the stories behind each case.

Ball said students in the CARE Club host a variety of events throughout the year to address community needs. Earlier this month, they held a healthy fun walk to bring attention to diabetes and healthy eating habits. Her students are also heavily involved in the colleges community garden, which donated more than 1,000 pounds of vegetables to area food pantries this summer.

The training we are providing our students will allow them to help build strong and healthy communities, Ball said. Im very proud to lead this group of students, and I cannot wait to see what their future holds.

For more information on the human services program or Care Club, contact Ball at (606) 889-4787 or email