By Amanda Huber
The Highland Park United Methodist Church’s Great Hall was filled with nearly 75 SMU students and community members this Tuesday from 6:45-10 p.m. coming together to give thanks and give back. This was the first year SMU Wesley and HPUMC College partnered together for their Thanksgiving celebrations.
On-campus college ministry SMU Wesley has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner the week before Thanksgiving for years, but this year, director of the Wesley Foundation, Andrew Beard, decided to change the event to make it more impactful for the community.
Andrew Beard did not have to look far for a partner to collaborate with since his wife, Sarah Beard, is the coordinator of the college ministry at HPUMC. Sarah’s organization had done a food-packing event for Thanksgiving the past two years.
“It really was a joint effort from beginning to end,” Andrew Beard said.
The organizations came together and HPUMC College coordinated the food for the Thanksgiving dinner as well as the food-packing project while SMU Wesley coordinated getting students involved.
Laura Casey, the secretary of SMU Wesley, was able to see the growth in the event after also attending last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“We were able to have a larger turnout and enjoy dinner together before we packed the bags,” Casey said.
The smells of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie filled the air as SMU students, faculty, staff, graduates and local members of the community came together to fight hunger through a partnership with Stop Hunger Now.
Stop Hunger Now is a non-profit organization driven by a vision of a world without hunger. According to their website, their vision is to end world hunger by providing food and aid to developing countries.
In about two hours, attendees packed more than 15,000 meals to send to children in need this holiday season.
Wesley bible study student Kaleigh Cobb was reminded about the importance of giving back thanks to the new event.
“It’s so important to remember how much of an impact we can help create by spending a little of our time investing in others,” Cobb said.
While SMU students gave back to their community, they were also able to be on the receiving end of generosity. HPUMC donated all of the food for the Thanksgiving dinner before the service project.
“We had an incredible time and ate amazing Thanksgiving food,” Andrew Beard said. “So that’s a success in my book.”
Director Andrew Beard was uncertain about how the event would go since it was their first year combining the celebrations, but overall said he felt the event had been a success.
Events such as these provide a great opportunity for students living on campus to fulfill service hour requirements or easily get involved with giving back to their community.
“I walked right over to HPUMC after an organization meeting and was able to walk back to my dorm afterwards,” Cobb said. “It was super convenient.”
SMU Wesley’s next event is a Christmas worship service called “The Christmas Well” that will take place in Cox Chapel on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m.