Thanksgiving Dinner has become my favorite event over the last 7 years I have been part of ICAN. Not only because I have learned to appreciate this tradition in my personal life, but mostly, for what it represents in our community: sense of belonging.
As many of the families we get to serve every day here at ICAN, my experience celebrating Thanksgiving Dinner has been a learned tradition that has become part of our lives. Chandler families have a mixture of several different ethnic and cultural orientations that represents its unique diversity, history and heritage. The ICAN thanksgiving dinner provides families with a unique opportunity to experience a tradition that can be part of their family values. This event contributes to family of any background to connect to positive aspects of living in a community.
The objective of this event is to provide a whole atmosphere for a memorable Thanksgiving Dinner to strengthen family values and traditions and to promote a sense of community where families can interact, celebrate and enjoy together.
Most of families that participate in the ICAN thanksgiving dinner live in extreme poverty and do not have the opportunity or resources to celebrate this holiday at home. The detail and attention to provide quality food, decorations and atmosphere, provide a great experience to families since they feel valued. When families have the opportunity to experience this type of interaction with others, a sense of true pride develop. This true pride leads to individual, familial and community strengthening.
Additionally, families have the opportunity to meet and interact with other community members, including police officers, city officials and other volunteers in a very casual setting. During this year event, families got to interact with four City Council members, the Chief of Chandler Police Department, Principals from Elementary Schools in the area, ICAN Board members as well as many other supporters including ICAN founder Henry Salinas.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of ICAN hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for Chandler families. As part of the entertainment for the event, a slide show was presented with photos from previous years for families to see and learn about ICAN’s contribution to the Chandler community. It was memorable to see in the pictures many of the same families that have trusted ICAN for so many years, as well as many of the volunteers and supporters that have continued their commitment to create a stronger and greater organization.
As part of the event’s activities each family had the opportunity to take a family picture at a portable photography studio, donated by Tara Nichols, from My Creative Take. Additionally, families participate in raffle for food baskets and pies.
The entertainment for the event included folkloric music and dance performance by Institute of Folkloric Mexicano, providing cultural enrichment and promoting the recognition and celebration of living in a diverse community.
Thanks to the support and contributions from so many volunteers and donors, we have been able to serve, from an average of less than one hundred people during the first year of Thanksgiving dinner in 2005, to over 500 people in the last couple of years. Groups of volunteers have assisted with food preparation, decorations and setting up ICAN’s courtyard to get ready for the celebration.
As we enter this busy holiday season, it is great that we have the opportunity to slow down for a moment, and reflect on the many positive changes that ICAN has created in the Chandler community over the years. We are very grateful for all the support received and for every opportunity we get to serve ICAN youth and their families.
ICAN Family Program Coordinator