Thanksgiving is known as a time for family, thankfulness, gratitude – and of course food. Many students are not able to travel home for the holiday, so many in the ACU and Abilene community open their homes to students in need of a warm, home cooked Thanksgiving meal made with love and care.
The International Student Association (ISA), organizes host families that will open their home to students unable to travel home. International Student Services Specialist Veronica Summers worked side by side with her intern, Janae Polk, to contact ACU faculty/staff and members of the Abilene community.
“Aside from giving our international students the opportunity to experience an American Thanksgiving meal, this also gives our students the chance to build a relationship with a family apart from their own,” Veronica said. “One of the hardest things about being away from home is being away from your family, especially during the holidays. When you invite people into your home, your hospitality goes a long way in making them feel loved and valued.”
Abilene is known for its vast number of churches. Hillcrest Church of Christ is a local church that speaks to every student in attendance to make sure they have a place to be for Thanksgiving. If students don’t have any plans, the church connects them with a local family to host them for Thanksgiving. Senior communication disorders major from Black Diamond, Washington, Alyssa Burkhead, is a Hillcrest College Ministry Intern. She said at Hillcrest, they recognize the importance of spending holidays with people who care about you.
“Even if you don’t typically celebrate the holiday, when you’re around a community that does, it can be difficult to watch others leave to spend time with their loved ones,” Alyssa said. “Hillcrest tries to make sure that the option is available for students to join a family that has opened a seat at their table to share that familial love, especially if the student is far from their loved ones.”
The holiday season can be difficult for many reasons. When students are faced with the fact they have to be away from family, these opportunities for community provide reason for thankfulness. Freshman political science and history double major from Murrieta, California, Langley Smith, is immensely grateful for the opportunities presented for Thanksgiving away from home. She is staying with a local family friend for the holiday.
“There’s not really the option to go home and visit for shorter breaks/periods of time, but having the option to visit professors’ houses gives a bit of the feeling of home back, ” Langley said. “It’s really kind and really shows a Christ-like love. It reminds me of why I chose ACU in the first place.”