More than a feast: Servo Thanksgiving cultivates community, fosters connections

Happy Thanksgiving from Gettysburg College! - 2022

Pumpkin Graphic with Happy Thanksgiving in text

A turkey hat passed down from generation to generation among Dining Services staff, a senior softball player honored with being selected to carve a turkey after returning from studying abroad, a “Give Thanks” apron donned by College Advancement volunteers, and multiple languages shared by students around tables—these are only a few of the many traditions created among students, faculty, and staff as part of the larger beloved tradition of Servo Thanksgiving at Gettysburg College.

Long before the doors opened to the College’s main dining hall, affectionally known as Servo, students emerged from their residences on Nov. 15 with blankets and chairs, ready to claim their spots in line—some as early as sunrise. Braving 30-degree temperatures and a wintry mix, they bundled up, enjoying warm beverages while listening to their Spotify playlists. As their anticipation grew and the line extended past the College Union Building, the wait is just as much a part of Servo Thanksgiving as the dinner itself, many said, as they readied for the family atmosphere that Servo Thanksgiving brings.

Line of students for Servo Thanksgiving
Students are excited to walk into our dining hall for Servo Thanksgiving 2022.

“All the work that Servo puts into the food is worth the long wait.”

— Tyson Eveque ’25, health sciences major, Fort Myers, Florida

“You get to celebrate with people you’d consider brothers, friends, and family for life. Instead of being at home with their families, [faculty and staff] give up their time to be here with the students.”

— Kevin Jenkins ’25, cinema and media studies major, Baltimore, Maryland

“I come from a big family with nine siblings. Being together for Servo Thanksgiving reminds me of getting together for meals with my family.”

— Natalie Landry ’26, Japanese studies major, North Attleboro, Massachusetts

“I didn’t know turkey and chicken are two different things. I call turkey ‘Western chicken,’ and it tastes just as good! Being served by staff and faculty members is interesting since they would be seen as authority figures in my country, Vietnam. It is welcoming for students from other cultures, and I’m grateful for it.”

— River Pham ’26, Vietnam

“I like that it brings people together to celebrate with a home-away-from-home feeling.”

— Isabelle Stehle ’26, psychology major, Hyde Park, New York

As students sat down to carve slices of golden-brown roasted turkey, spoon servings of fluffy mashed potatoes onto their plates, spread softened butter over dinner rolls, and dig into pumpkin pie topped with clouds of whipped cream, Jamie Callahan, the associate director of donor relations and stewardship and one of 100 faculty and staff volunteers this year, relished the camaraderie and special moments she witnessed, including the selection of each table’s turkey carver.

Student carving a turkey
Carla Pavlick, program coordinator for international student services, helps Triet Phan ’26 carve a roasted turkey during Servo Thanksgiving.

“It’s much harder than it seems,” admitted Alice Nguyen ’26, an international student from Vietnam, who took turns with her friends carving a roasted turkey for the first time during their first Servo Thanksgiving.

After missing Servo Thanksgiving the previous two years due to COVID-19 and a semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy, Jasmin Herrera ’23, a political science major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also earned the honor of carving the turkey for her 24 softball teammates, who sat side-by-side at two tables.

“As a senior, it’s nice to know that this tradition that I’m experiencing continues at Gettysburg,” Herrera said.

Students sitting at a table and eating at Servo Thanksgiving
Gettysburg College students celebrate Servo Thanksgiving, an annual College tradition.

For others, like sociology major Ronald Moyer ’23 of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Servo Thanksgiving is a welcomed “break to have time for mental health and joy.” Health sciences major Logan Sodl ’24 of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, also learns more about his friends’ Thanksgiving traditions while sharing his own. It’s the personalized, shared environment with students, faculty, and staff that highlights his experience.

“It is extremely special, allowing everyone to know each other on a more personal level and overall bring the community together,” Sodl said.

After tasting the foods of Thanksgiving, capturing the moment in photos, and sharing several laughs with friends, Adib Kabir ’26, a physics and math double major from Bangladesh, was appreciative to be able to take part in this tradition at Gettysburg College.

“I left my country to have a better life and to study in America,” he said. “I feel proud to be part of this sharing of culture and diversity, and connecting with people in this way was an opportunity to get to know them personally.”

College Advancement team members wearing aprons and posing for a photo inside the cafeteria
Members of College Advancement were among more than 100 College faculty and staff volunteers who participated in Servo Thanksgiving.

As faculty and staff were greeted with cheers from students with each plate presented for the Thanksgiving feast, Callahan, who fashioned aprons for her Advancement colleagues, was reminded of the College’s mission, the importance of giving, and “the spirit of generosity and gratefulness that embodies Thanksgiving.”

“It’s difficult to put into words, but it just feels special to be a part of,” said Callahan, who has volunteered for more than 10 years. “This beloved Gettysburg tradition couldn’t happen without volunteers. We have gravy on our aprons and smiles on our faces as more students pour into the dining hall. It’s fun, slightly chaotic, and heartwarming all at once.”

View our Flickr gallery from Servo Thanksgiving 2022.

Servo Thanksgiving 2022

By Michael Vyskocil
Photography by Hang Lian
Posted: 11/18/22