Book club provides Thanksgiving dinner to refugee families

A few days before Thanksgiving, while most people were deep into preparations, Natalie Tessler was thinking about who might benefit from a free meal.  

While talking with a friend whose children, like hers, attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Tessler learned about the Syrian families served by the Hyde Park Refugee Project.  Her friend’s daughter, a high schooler who tutors some of the refugee children in her spare time, often spoke about the daily struggles the families faced.

“It kind of struck me, as we were planning for Thanksgiving, how nice it would be to make these people feel more welcome,” said Tessler.  “We usually donate Thanksgiving dinner to someone every year. This year felt like the ideal situation.  All this talk about refugees being a threat to our community really bothers me and, I think, a lot of people in our community.”

She reached out to the Refugee Project’s tutor coordinator Kate Hannigan who identified four families that would very much welcome the gesture.  That evening, Tessler met with her book club and shared her idea. Without hesitation, all eight of her friends offered to chip-in so that each of the families could experience Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving morning in a car loaded with food, Tessler and her family members delivered turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and pies to the refugee families.  Each time, they were greeted by excited kids and invitations for tea and coffee.

“All the volunteers were so excited and touched that Natalie and her book club stepped up to take on the holiday,” said Hannigan. “The consensus from the moms was that Thanksgiving was fantastic! They liked the food, and the kids especially loved the pie desserts.” 

“I believe that there’s a huge appetite in our community to lend a hand to refugees and others in need, but many simply don’t know where to go to find opportunities to help,” said Tessler. “I’m grateful that the Hyde Park Refugee Project had the information and ability to make this happen.”

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