Penn gives thanks during holiday season

More than 150 Thanksgivings have come and gone since Penn’s founding. These years have ushered in many holiday “firsts”—Penn’s marching band being the first college band to appear at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for example—and as many holiday “lasts,” such as the 1989 Penn-Cornell football game that brought the almost century-long Thanksgiving Day match-up to a dramatically cold and snowy close.

For every Penn Thanksgiving tradition that has run its course, though, myriad new ones have sprung up to take its place.

Among these is the Kelly Writers House (KWH) Thanksgiving meal, now in its 20th year. KWH Faculty Director Al Filreis calls it “the best day of the Writers House year. The usual KWH mode of smart table talk, plentiful food, and open-hearted sharing turns into a special communitarian ritual.”

“The communal spirit Al describes is matched by a communal table,” says KWH Director Jessica Lowenthal. “Writers House Thanksgiving is a potluck, and community members bring and share the dishes that are important to their own histories and traditions.”

Elsewhere on campus are initiatives to pair international students with local families on Thanksgiving Day. Sarah Mitchell, a member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, International Student Ministry, and Graduate Student Ministry staff, has been spearheading such initiatives for nearly three decades, and finding family tables—including her own—for as many as 70 students in a given year. 

“I always invite students to share what they are thankful for,” Mitchell says. “Last year, some of the ‘thanks’ were for their family, their countries that sponsored them, the U.S. that welcomed them, and the Americans that invited them to their home.” 

Other campus groups invite the Penn community to give food, clothing, or time to neighbors in need. Among these initiatives is Alpha Phi Alpha’s “Arms of Alpha,” a coordinated effort to provide free dinners on Thanksgiving Day at the North Broad Street YMCA and collect clothing donations. Anyone interested in volunteering on Thanksgiving Day can email Kenny Jones, associate director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Drop-off locations for the clothing are at the National Temple Baptist Church, 1628 Master St., on Nov. 25 and at the YMCA on Nov. 26.

Phi Kappa Psi is also hosting its second annual “Hatsgiving” event to collect hats for children undergoing chemotherapy. The fraternity’s president, Geoff Cahayom, says they will be collecting hats on Locust Walk from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, and Friday, Nov. 20.

Another food drive underway is the annual drive coordinated by Penn Volunteers in Public Services. The drive runs through Thursday, Nov. 19. Non-perishable foods, such as cans and boxed foods, are being collected, as well as turkeys.

Donations will re-stock the pantry at Achievability and the People’s Emergency Shelter, and will help many deserving families in the area.

For a list of drop-off locations, visit the Almanac website.

Kelly Writers House Thanksgiving