Students staying in Carbondale during Thanksgiving break won’t have to look far to find a holiday meal.
The Newman Catholic Student Center will offer a free Thanksgiving feast for the community from 12 to 2 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s a good thing for the community,” said Linda Brayfield, a Carbondale resident who has organized the meal for more than 35 years. “There’s a lot of people who may not be able to have a meal like this if we didn’t put it together. There are a lot of people who can’t afford it.”
Brayfield said the Newman Center is preparing to serve 800 to 1,000 people, ranging from SIU students to residents from all over southern Illinois. She said the meal is provided through donations, and Brayfield estimated nearly 100 turkeys will be cooked and served during the afternoon.
The meal at the center, which is located near the Recreation Center, will be an option for students who stay on campus, as Residence Hall Dining will not serve meals until Sunday.
“I’ve been in rough spots myself and spent Thanksgivings by myself,” Brayfield said. “I know what it feels like to be in that kind of situation. I think it’s important to give people a place to go who might not have one otherwise.”
Brayfield said the Undergraduate Student Government is one of the dinner’s main sponsors, and several other area organizations and clubs also chipped in.
Among those unable to travel home are some international students. For some, the break isn’t long enough to return home, and travel is too costly.
Elaine Conrad, a representative from the Center for International Education, said the amount of students traveling home depends on each student’s economic situation and where he or she can go.
Conrad said students who stay in Carbondale often eat at the Newman Center or with host families and friends. She said it is important for international students to participate in Thanksgiving so they can learn about American traditions.
“It’s an opportunity for them to see the ways that we give back to our community,” she said. “This is something the Newman Center has been doing for years.”
Conrad said the holiday season is a tough time for international students who have to spend it away from home.
“It’s difficult to be away from family,” she said. “I think that’s part of the reason why it’s important for us to reach out to those who are far from their families.”
Rad Liang, a freshman from Taiwan studying aviation technology, said he will eat with friends and visit with family through Skype, the social networking tool, because it is too expensive to go home.
He said he will miss being at home, but he enjoys Thanksgiving in America because of the shopping.
Sasi Sundaresan, a graduate student in engineering from India, said his friends have participated in American Thanksgiving traditions for the past two years because it is impossible for them to go home to India during the five-day break. He said he would need at least one school month off in order to go home.
Sundaresan said it is hard to watch other students go home while he is unable to.
“Sometimes you have to go home and visit your family, especially during these occasions,” he said. “We definitely miss that for sure.”