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Eastern Connecticut State University hosts annual community Thanksgiving meal

Eastern staff serving up a Thanksgiving lunch.jpg
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
Eastern staff serving up a Thanksgiving lunch

Eastern Connecticut State University held its first in-person community Thanksgiving meal since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic almost three years ago.

A happy local resident eating her Thanksgiving meal.jpg
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
A happy local resident eating her Thanksgiving meal

Around 500 local residents and community members enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal served up by University students and staff at the campus dining hall as part of their day of giving.

Lana O’Connor is from Eastern’s Center of Community Engagement who organized the annual event and said it’s great to be back in person.

“Everybody really loves this event in person, it’s more meaningful, we get to see the people of Willimantic and the happy faces," O'Connor said. "Especially our student volunteers. We have close to 30 today that are helping all of our guests with food and clearing tables, but they also get to greet and talk with and share stories so that personal connection we were missing the past couple of years.”

Apple and pumpkin pie on offer.jpg
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
Apple and pumpkin pie on offer

During the pandemic Eastern continued the annual tradition but provided the Thanksgiving meals in to-go containers which were handed out to patrons at local soup kitchens in the town.

This year Eastern provided transport for their guests bringing them in from several different locations in the town and the surrounding area.

Michelle Dusette comes from Willimantic and said the Thanksgiving meal and interaction with students and friends means a lot to them and everyone else.

“It is just so blessed that everybody could be here today for a wonderful, wonderful meal," Dusette said. "And yeah, it was just, and I saw a few people I haven’t seen in a long time, so it was wonderful. The food was great, the service is fine, and it was wonderful.”

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.