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Refugee Families Enjoy First Thanksgiving at West Hartford Church

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Eight refugee families sat down to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford.

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

By Ronni Newton

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner – complete with all of the fixings – was enjoyed Thursday afternoon at St. John’s Episcopal Church by more than 50 brand new residents of West Hartford and the Greater Hartford area.

Eight refugee families, parents and their children, feasted on turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, and salad for their first-ever Thanksgiving dinner.

Seven of the families are from Syria, and one family is from the Central African Republic. All have multiple children – an average of three per family – and all have been in the United States for less than six months, said Sarah Kieffer, a St. John’s parishioner and member of the St. James’s-St. John’s co-sponsorship committee which is helping the Katoubs, a Syrian refugee family, acclimate to life in West Hartford.

Kieffer and Nancy Latif, another committee member working with the Katoub family, organized the Thanksgiving dinner.

“The intent was to give them a traditional Thanksgiving meal but also with the intent of observing their dietary customs,” said Kieffer. All of the refugees are all Muslim, and Latif prepared three halal turkeys, Kieffer said. A fourth halal turkey was donated by another parishioner.

All of the foods were homemade by members of the community. Kieffer said the contributions were amazing, and included a table of appetizers and almost two full tables of desserts with an assortment of pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies as well as other sweets.

Some of the food items weren’t necessarily traditional Thanksgiving staples, but were classically American foods like deviled eggs. “We wanted to give them a feeling for that, too,” Kieffer said. Some of the refugee families also brought their own side dishes for everyone to sample, she said.

“It was really amazing,” said Kieffer.

She said that one of the refugees, Fadi Al Asmi, said, “He feels very grateful for our giving them a dinner, and for the amount of food.”

While many of the food items themselves weren’t necessarily foreign to the refugees, the way the foods were prepared made for a very new experience. “The seasonings and spices are very different,” Kieffer said.

Leftovers are also a Thanksgiving tradition, and the families all had the opportunity to fill their plates with whatever they wanted to take home after the meal.

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Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

Thanksgiving dinner for refugees at St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Rector Susan Pinkerton

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