2016-11-24 / Front Page

A Thanksgiving for friends

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University of New England hosts Thanksgiving feast for students
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Today is Thanksgiving, but for many students at the University of New England, it’s their second one of the season.

The university hosted a special Thanksgiving feast for students — complete with all the fixings — in its dining hall on Nov. 17, during which students were greeted and personally served by their professors.

The event is a longstanding tradition at UNE, and one staff members say they look forward to every year.

“This is a special meal, for one, because it’s a time when the community at UNE gives back. …  It’s kind of one of those meals the students really enjoy,” said Kurt Bennett, service manager with Sodexo, the university’s food supplier. “Thanksgiving is all about family, community, so it gives you that feeling here on campus.”

The community feeling was certainly in the air, as students sat in groups at tables adorned with white linen cloths and autumnal-colored napkins. University President Danielle Ripich even got into the spirit, serving pies to students tableside.

And in true Thanksgiving form, there was no shortage of food.

Executive Chef Dennis McCarthy said he and his crew had prepared 350 pounds of turkey, 300 pounds of mashed potatoes, 200 pounds butternut squash and 12 gallons of gravy. That’s a lot, but not when there are 1,000 hungry college students to feed.

McCarthy said he receives a great deal of satisfaction in preparing the meal, mostly because he knows the students anticipate it every year.

“I think it’s a great function that’s embraced well by the student body as well as faculty and staff,” McCarthy said. “There’s just a sense of community, everyone coming together and sharing a meal as one big family.

“And then they’ll go home to their own family next Thursday, and I think this is just a nice way to start off,” he said.

Students were appreciative of the meal. Many said they are grateful for the time they get to spend with their friends going into the holiday season.

“I like that they made it special because it would be kind of a bummer just to come for a normal meal, like any other day,” said Maddie Lynnworth, 18, of Upton, Massachusetts.

“It’s nice because it makes it feel like a more homey place. You feel like you’re definitely part of a community rather than just at school,” said Lynnworth, a psychology student. “I’m thankful that we have the resources to be able to do this, and we’re able to come to a place where they care enough to do this for us. I think that’s really nice.”

Lynnworth said she’d be going home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and was looking forward to doing so. But for many others, going home wasn’t an option.

“There’s a good amount of students from far away who might not be going home, or are from overseas, and they’re definitely not going home in this time,” Bennett said. “So (the meal) gives them a chance to enjoy —  it’s really special, it gives them that better sense of community.”

Taryn Johnson, a 22-year-old medical student was one of those who wouldn’t be able to see her family today. In lieu of a journey home to Arizona, Johnson said the feast at least provided her a sense of community.

“For me to have food with my friends at medical school is great, and it’s a nice setting,” she said. “It’s going to be the first Thanksgiving I haven’t spent with my family, so this is a great way for me to get to eat real Thanksgiving food with people I care about.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com. 

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