For many students, Thanksgiving week is a special time to spend with family and friends over large, festive meals. But for international students, a couple of days without classes oftentimes isn’t enough time to travel back home. That’s why Dr. Greg Hodges, president of Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC), and his wife, Renee Hodges, open their doors to students who won’t be home for the holidays.
The tradition started several years ago under the leadership of former P&HCC president, Dr. Angeline Godwin, when the community college in Martinsville began actively recruiting international students. While there was a brief pause for COVID, the meal resumed in 2021 under the direction of the Hodges.
Hosted at the Chatham House, P&HCC’s presidential home, the Hodges welcome students to enjoy the unique national holiday.
“We are so blessed to be able to live in the Chatham House. Opening it up to serve our international students a traditional Thanksgiving meal is one of our absolute favorite things to do,” Renee said. “The students love it, the staff love it, and Dr. Hodges and I love it.”
Monica Hatchett, P&HCC’s director of public relations and marketing, said that the Hodges typically host upwards of 50 students each year.
“Combined with staff who work with these students and staff from the P&HCC Foundation which helps to fund the event, we usually feed about 65 people,” she said. “The countries represented by our international students vary each year, but have included Brazil, India, Canada, Australia, Japan, Honduras, England, Scotland, South Africa, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, Barbados, and Portugal.”
Planning for the massive meal begins as soon as the fall semester starts. Renee works with a local caterer to create the menu, which consists of a traditional Thanksgiving spread.
“She also turns the Chatham House into a Thanksgiving wonderland to show the international students how much we appreciate them choosing Patrick & Henry Community College for their education,” Hatchett said. “Finally, she also works with a couple of local nonprofits to provide boxes of food for each student to take home with them.”
While most of the flavors are well-received, there are two standouts that typically don’t get as much praise.
“We have found that most of the students absolutely love all of the dishes with the exception of stuffing and sweet potato casserole, which is ironic since those are often the favorites among staff,” Hatchett said.
But even more than the food, it’s the fellowship that makes the event so special.
“It is incredibly rewarding to sit and fellowship with these remarkable young people,” Hatchett said. “Listening to the stories of their native countries and hearing why they chose P&HCC reminds us all how fortunate we are to live and work in such a welcoming community.”
The college president also looks forward to the tradition each year.
“The international students at P&HCC are such an important part of our PHamily. Getting to know them on an individual level and fellowshipping with them over a Thanksgiving meal is a tentpole moment on my calendar,” Greg said. “I am grateful to the P&HCC Foundation for their financial support and to my wife who works so hard to make this event very special for our students.”
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