Local families hosting students who can’t go home for holiday

Thanksgiving can be a difficult time for college students who are unable to travel to be with loved ones. So a few local Hillsboro families are making big plans to make sure no Tabor students have to be alone on Thanksgiving.

Analisa Defiesta, her husband Mitch and their two children are working along with Analisa’s parents and brother and his family to provide a place for students to gather to celebrate the holiday. Lee Waldron, a Tabor staff member and his wife and children will also be helping.

“Thanksgiving can be really depressing for them, eating all alone. It should be a time to be with friends and family. For me, when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of home. So with the Waldons and my parents and brother, we are having a Thanksgiving open house at my parents’ house here in town. We are providing a meal, games with prizes and maybe even some football games in the yard,” said Defiesta. “We just want to make it feel like they are home celebrating with friends and family.”

They did a smaller get together last year and students seemed to enjoy it.

“It was a blast. I was scared it would be awkward or weird but the food was delicious, the games were so fun, and the crafts were cool! And it was never awkward once,” said student Tassanee Sanchez.

They have done many gatherings for the students although none quite as big as their upcoming meal. Their goal is the same though as far as wanting to make students feel welcome and included.

“I’ve gone over to eat with their family a couple times. I went on Easter Sunday and had a great time. Everyone was so welcoming. Even after the meal we played with all the children having a great time,” said student Raymond Perrault.

The budget is small, but Defiesta and her family and friends are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. They are also very open to donations and help from the community.

“I know this community likes to give. Like I can cook but not bake. So I put a post on Facebook asking for help and in a short time, we had about 10 pies, 9 dozen zwieback, and more. These were people I didn’t even know, and they just wanted to help,” said Defiesta.

The families are planning for around 100 students so they are setting up dining rooms in the house, in the garage and on the back patio. They plan to warm the areas with propane heaters and fire pits, if needed. If anyone would have the stand alone heaters to loan them for that day, they will gladly use them.

There are other needs as well.

“We are looking for any types of prizes for the games. Something small to us like a $5 Subway card or laundry soap is huge for a college student. Even if people just have some stuff on hand that they can regift, they would not have to spend much or any money. For example, I have about 9 bottles of unopened lotion that I know some college girls would love to have,” said Defiesta.

And, of course, they can use lots of food help.

“We figured we could use 6 turkeys and four hams as well as other items,” said Defiesta. “Whatever we don’t get we will provide, but whatever people can give would be helpful and help take some of the work off. We created a link so that we can make sure things are covered and we don’t get too much of something or not enough.”

The link to sign up for food donations is https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/2557854/false#/invitation. If someone does not have internet access, they can call Defiesta and tell her.

Defiesta said, “Any non-perishable items such as two liters of soda or prize donations can be dropped off anytime between now and Thanksgiving. They can bring it to my office at Tabor, Lee’s office, my house or my parent’s house. Really anywhere that works for them. The raw donations such as meat will need to be scheduled for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving if possible. If people are in town on Thanksgiving and are baking something that day, they can drop it off that morning at my parents’ house.”

Some students have already expressed excitement about the meal that is being called Taborgiving as word begins to spread.

“You should see their face. It’s a sense of relief when I tell them about it and invite them to join us. Many tell me they didn’t know where they were going to go,” said Defiesta. “If it were my child away at college, I would hope someone would do this for them.”

If you would like to help with any of the needs mentioned or would like more information, please email Analisa Defiesta at analisadefiesta@tabor.edu or call her at 619-920-2625.