Thanksgiving with Refugees: Andrea Smith

During Thanksgiving week, I had the honor of serving Thanksgiving dinner to our newest neighbors: our city’s resettled refugees. The event was organized by Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in an effort to provide the first Thanksgiving meal to refugees in Louisville who were experiencing their first American Thanksgiving. I was joined by many Broadway and community members who volunteered their time to help in this wonderful celebration of gratitude.

The event hosted more than 450 people who came together and shared a meal and conversation of thanks with other families experiencing their first Thanksgiving since moving to the United States. It was such a unique experience to be in the same room with families from so many countries who did not all speak the same language. I was surrounded by individuals who carried with them many memories and experiences so different from mine, yet thankfulness was one thing we had in common.

My heart melted as I taught a young boy how to trace his little hand, cut it out, and decorate it as a turkey. I saw him carry that turkey-hand around the rest of the afternoon; he wouldn’t even put it down as he ate. I could only imagine what his life had been like up to this point and what his family had gone through to bring him here, but I was overwhelmed with joy to see the happiness in his eyes as he learned how to make a simple craft which many of us had grown up enjoying. Many of the parents in the room had tears of joy in their eyes and continued to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” as they passed by the serving lines. It was truly an amazing experience, I cannot describe in words.

 Catholic Charities MRS program assists in the transition of refugees and migrants who have fled their country due to persecution of their religious or political beliefs. They have helped resettle refugees and migrants from more than 30 countries and assisted the families in finding housing, employment, education, and other aspects of becoming American citizens. Thanksgiving dinner was just one small part of the volunteer opportunities available. Phyllis McCoy, Janis Eberenz, and I attended a volunteer orientation last month to learn how Broadway members can become involved. Prior to refugee arrival in the United States, there is opportunity to donate furniture, grocery shop, and assist in setting up homes for the refugees so that they feel comfortable when they arrive. There are opportunities to assist with transportation upon arrival and longer term opportunities of mentoring individuals with schoolwork, learning English, and preparing for citizenship testing; working with children to older adults. Periodically, there are events to help with, and there is always a need for monetary, furniture, clothing, and school supply donations.

The morning we served the refugees was hectic, yet I found myself in pause as I looked around the room at all of these faces who have gone through so much to get here and were overflowing with gratitude. It was so great to see many Broadway faces sharing in this experience with me. It is my hope that we can continue to welcome refugees to our city as they start their new life in Louisville. Several members have expressed interest in volunteering. Shelley Dewig, Catholic Charities MRS Capacity and Outreach Coordinator, has offered to come to Broadway and discuss volunteering details and answer any questions. Janis and I will be coordinating her visit and will let everyone know the details when scheduled. I hope you will prayerfully consider helping this diverse population and will keep these families in your prayers as they transition to their new homes and new lives.