A New Berkeley Tradition, Family Thanksgiving for 300: Other Schools are Offering Meals for Students Unable to Go Home
It's a Thanksgiving tradition for family to gather for a feast. A new take on that tradition began Tuesday with Berkeley Recreational Sports partnering with local destinations, Hotel Durant and its 1928 vintage restaurant, Henry's, to provide a free Thanksgiving dinner to 300 students unable to get home for the holiday. Dozens of campus and community volunteers greeted and served the guests.
"Many of our students at Cal did not have the resources this year to travel home for the holiday, so our hope is to start a new tradition — to open our hearts and create a new family circle at Thanksgiving," said Joe Watz, senior associate director of Rec Sports, which co-hosted the event held at the hotel and restaurant.
The majority of dinner registrations were filled within days, and more than 50 volunteers — a combination of staff and community partners — also quickly signed up to greet students and serve traditional Thanksgiving fare, including 16 turkeys. The students ate in three shifts, beginning at 4:30 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m., filling their plates at a buffet, meeting new friends and building community with those who attended.
"We were surprised that so many students at Cal had a need for a place to spend Thanksgiving and to eat a traditional holiday meal at a time when the rest of us can be with family and eat more than we should," said Gary Kohler, director of sales and marketing for Hotel Durant and Henry’s, who estimated that it cost $12,000 to provide staffing and food for the students and volunteers. "It's a population we didn't realize was there. We wanted to help."
"I'm thankful that UC Berkeley takes care of its students, especially the ones who can't go home for the holidays," said Tracey Chen, a sophomore from Southern California who attended the banquet with friends. She and Jennifer Shim, also a sophomore, agreed that it was especially helpful that the meal was free.
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