THE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING
on UT’s campus are taking a break for Thanksgiving, which means
students are packing up their cars, heading home to eat turkey, watch
football and visit with family.
But for some Knoxville residents, that isn’t the Thanksgiving they know.
thousands living in Knoxville, there is no home. And without a home,
celebrating Thanksgiving gets complicated. On Sunday night, though
around 100 local homeless got to celebrate the holiday with Tennessee
student-athletes at the Varsity Inn inside Gibbs Hall.
is such a wonderful opportunity,” senior diver Gabrielle Trudeau said.
“It’s getting colder outside, and it’s great to be able to offer these
people a break, a warm meal and some new clothes.”
student-athletes took turns carving turkey, dishing out sweet potatoes
and stuffing. But for the staff at the Varsity Inn, which is not
normally open on weekends, the opportunity to open its kitchen for this
cause was not one they could pass up.
“This is just a
pleasure for all of us to come in and do something for people who need
it,” said Jason Timmons, the Varsity Inn’s head chef. “During the week,
we love serving Tennessee’s student-athletes, but this is a really
special opportunity and it’s such a joy for us to come in and do this.”
to the turkey carving, Trudeau, president of Tennessee’s
Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, contacted every UT head coach and
rounded up leftover Tennessee gear from each team. Tables filled with
sweats, t-shirts, jackets, shoes and other apparel were distributed
following the meal.
Student-athletes have also been saving
toiletries from the many hotels they stay in while traveling to compete
for UT on the road. Every year when the SAAC organizes this holiday
dinner, the individual soaps, shampoos and other toiletry items are
placed in zip-top bags and handed out.
“When we go to
meets away, I always tell everyone to remember to bring back their
toiletries from the hotel,” Trudeau said. “I usually come back with a
lot in my luggage, and now we are able to provide a small amount of
toiletries for these people.”
After the cranberry sauce
was gone, the group played several rounds of Bingo together, with UT
gear serving as prizes for the winners. With full stomachs, new clothes
and some toiletries, the group departed—some to shelters. Unfortunately
some have nowhere to return to but the street.
But, if only for a few hours Sunday night, they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with each other.
this was fun for a couple of hours and helped them get away from
whatever it is that caused them to be in this situation,” said Donna
Thomas, director of UT’s Thornton Athletics Student Life Center. “These
folks probably don’t care if these student-athletes play a sport or
not. This was an opportunity to be involved in the community in a way
that has some very real meaning to the people we’re serving.”