Thanks for Open Doors Thanksgiving 2023

What a marvelous Open Doors Thanksgiving 2023! A huge thanks goes to all of our mighty 63 volunteers who welcomed 48 children and 52 adults for a celebratory total of 163!

Francine Butoto singing

Francine Butoto & Emmanuel opened festivities with two songs in Swahili. (See Francine and her four kids on YouTube)

The 10 turkeys were delicious! We ate 8, did a drawing for one, and gave the last to a single household of 14 people. Thanks to Abubakar Muhammad for organizing turkeys, Istanbul Market for making Halal products available in Madison, and to the brave, adventurous cooks: Carol van Deelen, Nancy Holyoke, Jane Pire, Mary Fiore, Mona Badawi Sadek, Nevine El Nossery, Stacy Clark, Dale & Jane Vollmert and their recruited neighbor, Martha Fillinger.

Setup went smoothly.  Gratitude and admiration go to Jean René Watchou and kind Christ Presbyterian Church volunteers for smoothly and diplomatically coordinating three events in the same space. Credit goes to Victoria Szewczyk, Kim Soat, Ava Soat, Lily Varilla, Joy Cardin, and the he-was-everywhere Karl Szewczyk for tables and decorations. Joy even thought to snap a couple photos to post on Facebook while things were calm. And throughout, Rae Sowards took many excellent photos, some of which show up here.

Becca and Nick Radix courageously stepped in as Kitchen Coordinators, heating dishes and zoomed bowls, platters, and refills out to the five serving tables. MUCH appreciation for a job well done! The Kitchen Runners were outstanding. Judith Landsman, Bob Chase, Susan Kirnan, Barbara Feeney, and Joyce Muxfeld, among others, zipped in and out among the crowd and kept the tables full from beginning to end.

People at the potluck table

The combination of Syrian, Afghan, Congolese, and Arabic-style dishes amidst the cornbread stuffing and cranberries and the piles of baklava next to pumpkin pies and cupcakes created a magnificent Thanksgiving menu, not to mention the filled-out vegan / appetizer table.

Many people preferred to eat with fingers rather than silverware. “It makes the food more delicious,” a man explained. 

We loved the self-introductions and table-by-table offerings of words for “Peace” and “Thanks” in Arabic, Bengali, Dari, French, German, Hausa, Kikongo, Lingala, Norwegian, Pashto, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Urdu, Yoruba and…(more?) In addition to traditions of “harvest”, think of the many cultural celebrations that might someday be (and already are) incorporated into the “Greater Madison” communities.

People eating at a Thanksgiving Open Doors for Refugees event

Abdullah and Layala Ameen were essential in communicating with the Afghan community, and guests came from as far as Baraboo.  

The play room was full of kids making thread weavings and luminaries.  The wonderful team of Stacy Clark, Carrie Danielson, Carrie Mederson, Gabby Drake, Lindsey Green, Zosia Kaiser, Kim Soat and some helpful moms and others kept it moving.

Serving as table hosts, bringing platters and bowls of food, and pitching in to help, besides everyone mentioned above, were also Sam Vanakkeren, Mark Mederson, Jackie Pauly, Raji Katragadda, Karen Parrillo, Diane Packett, Joan Ballweg, Trcia Blanco, Cecilia Gillhouse, Susan Kiernan, Florentina Jernandez, Laura Graham, Kathy Lawler, Susan Hill, Tobi Idowu, Leon Creary, and Mona and Ash Sadek.

Chauffeurs Samir El Nossery, Howard Landsman, Rich Thal, Kirstie Pence, and the Afghan community drove full cars cross town. Joyce Muxfeld and Judy Landsman stayed to the very end to rinse, label, and re-cycle. A hefty clean-up crew included Cecilia Gillhouse, Susan Hill, Karl Szewczyk, Anne Katz and valiant, dawn-to-dusk global citizen, Jean-René. ODFR left the church in record time, 5:45 pm, 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

a kitchen with food in it

Our “Turkey Team” had fingers in all pies above – thank you, Abubakar, Stacy, Victoria, Judy, Tracy, Dale – wow! Superb effort. Thanks to all. And credit to Lily for the lovely name-tags and invitations.

Finally, a heartfelt appreciation to our entire Open Doors for Refugees Leadership Council, especially Alex Houghton for technical coordination, Jacqueline Komada for welcoming volunteers, Nevine El Nossery and the Translation Team for communicating with all the families, Tanya Carney for thinking to invite the nice photographer, Margaret Brauer for finding rides, even from afar, and Bob Chase for standing patiently by the door for hours, admitting arriving and departing guests.  We send fond greetings to Ken Baun and Efrat Livny, who launched the first ODFR Thanksgivings in 2017, 2018, and 2019, together with Erica Bouska and Becky Wennlund.

Apologies for names omitted, forgotten and misspelled. We hope the joy of participating will become a treasured memory. The tradition of volunteering is one of America’s great strengths.  For Madison’s refugees and all they bring, we are grateful.

A cornucopia