YMCA connects community through Thanksgiving potluck


Photo Courtesy of the University

Students and community members celebrate Thanksgiving at the annual Thanksgiving potluck at the University YMCA in Champaign on November 19, 2015.

By Sam Schrage, Staff writer

Since the YMCA’s opening at the University in 1873, it had a vision to make C-U a better place by connecting people on campus and in the C-U community.

The University YMCA has maintained that vision 143 years later through several on- and off-campus programs that encourage students to be leaders in their community.

The YMCA’s focus on working together allows students and staff to develop support systems leading up to final exams at the end of the semester. The annual Thanksgiving potluck serves as an opportunity to reflect on the past semester and develop relationships with other members of the community.

The potluck will be held from 4 to 6 p.m this Thursday in Latzer Hall at the YMCA on 1001 S. Wright St. The YMCA staff will be cooking a turkey, and everyone attending will provide various side dishes and desserts. There will be options for vegetarians as well. All YMCA members and friends are invited to attend the event.

“(The potluck is) an opportunity for folks to have a fun, community event where you can meet some new people or get to know people better who you’ve met throughout your time at the Y. The Y is a really big organization, and it’s an opportunity for students to get to know people that they see all the time in the hall but don’t actually know,” said Kasey Umland, associate director at the University YMCA.

The potluck is one of the University YMCA’s most popular events because it is a chance for the organization to bond within the staff and community and grow closer to achieving long-term goals.

Umland said the YMCA is a place for students to give each other advice and provide support against the added stresses brought on by quickly approaching finals. She said that while the Thanksgiving potluck is a social event, it also helps people build a stronger community by coming together to celebrate.

“It’s a nice chance to bond with members of your group or with different student workers and staff. It’s also an opportunity to sit down with people you normally wouldn’t talk to and get to know them,” said Ellie Snyder, junior in LAS.

This will be Snyder’s second Thanksgiving potluck. Snyder works as a desk clerk at the YMCA and is also the treasurer for the Green Observer, the YMCA’s environmental magazine.

Alongside building relationships in the community, the University YMCA helps community members bond with people of different races, ages and backgrounds as well. It also emphasizes interaction with international students looking to experience American traditions.

“We really like having the opportunity to connect with students in a social setting instead of a work setting. For me, as a student and still today I learn so much from the people who come into the Y off campus that I never would have before. It’s cool to share a meal with people who are really interesting and who are interested in these issues that brought us together,”  said Emily Cross, director of development at the University YMCA.

The relationships students make with University staff and community members also translate to their everyday life and allow them to interact on a deeper level than student to teacher.

Umland said a lot of the faculty members on the University YMCA board of directors come to the potluck to interact with students outside of the classroom setting. It gives students and faculty members a chance to relate to one another and puts them into a situation where they feel more comfortable to get to know each other on a personal basis.

“A lot of faculty do really cool community-based things, and people don’t necessarily see that about them. For them this is a space where they get to be the person they were before they were a professor or the person they are when they’re not teaching. They get to be that person with students and not disrupt the classroom dynamic,” Umland said.

To Umland, the Thanksgiving potluck really makes a difference in the community by helping people of all ages and backgrounds come together over a meal and take a minute to remember everything community members have to be thankful for.

“A lot of what we do is always the hard thinking about the problems of the world and how we solve them, and this is one of those times where we say, ‘Yes, we’re all doing that, but we also need to take care of ourselves and take care of each other.’” Umland said.

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