November 22, 2017 — In celebration of the holiday season, AHC Inc. continued its annual tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinners at several of its affordable housing communities in Arlington. For some residents, the Thanksgiving dinner is a preview to the one they’ll share with family on Thursday. For others, it is their main Thanksgiving celebration – a time to share big plates of food with their families and neighbors in the community.
“These events are a wonderful opportunity to build community at our properties and bring residents together,” said Resident Services Director Susan Davidson. “It’s great to experience so many different cultural flavors along with the traditional turkey dinner.”
This year, AHC hosted Thanksgiving celebrations at six community centers that offer onsite education programs and services for residents. AHC staff teamed up with dozens of volunteers to cook more than 30 turkeys, prepare side dishes, and help decorate community spaces for hundreds of residents to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast together.
At Woodbury Park Apartments, long lines of guests waited outside on Monday evening for the community center doors to open. Becky Koons, Senior Resident Services Manager, spent the day cooking mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, and stuffing. Prior to the dinner, Koons predicted they would need eight turkeys for the 300 to 400 guests they were expecting.
“I think there were one thousand people!” said ten-year-old volunteer Micah Peters. Peters, who helped hand out desserts to guests, said he would come back again next year to help. “It was cool to see kids my age. Chocolate cake was the most popular [dish].”
Marco Condor attended the Woodbury dinner with his two youngest children, Anthony and Emily. Condor and his family have lived at Woodbury Park for five years, where his children participate in AHC’s After-School Program. They are enjoying another Thanksgiving event with extended family on Thursday.
Cynthia Ma and her daughter, Christina, residents at Woodbury for 10 years, consider Monday night’s meal their main Thanksgiving dinner. They celebrate the holiday by paying it forward – volunteering at a local shelter to help prepare Thanksgiving meals.
At Harvey Hall Apartments, Resident Services Manager Jasmine Rose organized a smaller dinner of around 60 to 70 guests for AHC’s After-School Program students and their extended families.
“It’s fun for the kids to have their families come where we host the program. We keep their artwork out on display for their families to see,” said Rose. “[These dinners] are just a perfect way to bring folks together around Thanksgiving.”
At The Gates of Ballston Rinker Community Center celebration, families received a special guest appearance along with their Thanksgiving meal. The Arlington County Police Department’s First District Community Team stopped by to spend time with the young students and wish families a happy Thanksgiving. The team has become a regular visitor at AHC’s After-School Program and spent the evening with students who had prepared special napkins with notes about what they were thankful for this holiday season.
“We enjoy spending time with the kids, helping them with crafts and other activities,” said Officer Michael Keen. “It’s nice to build continuity with the students and their families.”
About a dozen volunteers helped prepare and serve Thanksgiving dishes at the Gates of Ballston event. “They really went above and beyond,” said Shardae Monroe, Resident Services Coordinator. “I think that’s what made the event so successful.”
One of the volunteers, Coral Harris, has worked with youth in AHC’s education programs for three years. She enjoyed the opportunity to visit with students and their families – and share a big batch of home-cooked macaroni and cheese. Her long-time commitment also reflects the spirit of Thanksgiving.
“A lot of people helped me along the way, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back,” said Harris. “I feel it is necessary to do what I can.”
– Andrew Karpinski
Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 53 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,500 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.