New Neighbors Celebrate First Thanksgiving

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Article Contributed by
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the many reasons for which to be grateful. On Thanksgiving Day nearly 60 people gathered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to do just that all the while eating delicious food, celebrating their individual cultures, and learning new ones. Immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Venezuela, and Colombia experienced their first Thanksgiving with all of the trimmings.

Over the last year the New Neighbors Coalition has worked diligently to welcome our new neighbors into our community and help them find their footing. Willow Fodor, who represents the Jamestown Community Learning Council as part of the coalition, proposed the Thanksgiving Dinner to the Coalition as way of expressing gratitude and sharing our cultural practices. She shared, “Before moving to Jamestown, I had the opportunity to help several families learn English and, in most of cases, they returned the favor by preparing a meal for us all to share. As we sat together and learned from each other, food – and the desire to share it with others- was something we instantly had in common. Food represents both a basic human necessity and the most obvious expression of hospitality.”

She worked with Steven Cobb of the Mental Health Association, Sam Qadri of the Islamic Society and Momina Di Blasio, the volunteer coordinator for the New Neighbors Coalition, to create the menu. Qadri ensured that the meal was halal and procured the 18 turkeys prepared.

He said, “The dinner was an unforgettably, amazing experience. It provided our new neighbor refugees an opportunity to be welcomed on their first ever Thanksgiving in a real American style Turkey dinner with all the trimmings! It put a smile on all their faces and helped provide a sense of belonging in their newly adopted homeland. It was an evening of great company, great food, peace, and community-building. We all gave Thanks and prayed in appreciation for this auspicious evening.”

Di Blasio worked closely with the more than 30 volunteers who helped put the dinner together. She said, “It was a privilege to be a part of our new neighbors’ first Thanksgiving. I feel so lucky to work alongside such wonderful volunteers who not only donated their money to buy ingredients and time to prepare the meal, but also chose to celebrate such an important holiday with our new community members. I hope this becomes an ongoing tradition. I wouldn’t want to celebrate the holiday any other way.”

After the meal, several new neighbors stoop up to express their sincere gratitude and offered to help prepare the meal next year for those new neighbors to come after them. Fodor responded, “I have been so happy to see all the people who quickly offered to help make this celebration a reality. Eager to make their hospitality tangible and edible. Food is a universal language. No matter where we come from, around a table we are all family.”

For general points of inquiry and to stay connected, follow https://www.facebook.com/NewNeighborsCoalition/, email Momina Di Blasio (momina@stlukesjamestown.org) or call the St. Luke’s office (716.483.6405).