When Cathy Lee Arcuino returned to the United States after working abroad for nearly nine years, she vowed that when it came to the holidays, hers would be a home where anyone would be welcome.
This Thanksgiving, she's keeping that promise.
Arcuino, associate director for International Programs and Services at Pittsburg State University, along with her boyfriend Bill Daneke, owner of Bill's Cycle just south of Pittsburg, will host their second Thanksgiving Bash on Thursday, Nov. 25, welcoming nearly 70 people including family, friends and co-workers, as well as 40 international students.
Some in the crowd will be family members. Some are students from (at last count) at least 12 different countries who have nowhere to celebrate. And some will be friends who simply want to be part of such a joyful, diverse experience.
"I remember all those times I was overseas and there was a holiday and I had no family around," said Arcuino, who served in the Peace Corps and held jobs in a number of far-away locales. "I made that commitment to myself that when I came back, I would always take people in and make sure they had somewhere to go."
She and Daneke started last year by welcoming about 20 international students to their family dinner. Receiving praise from their families about the additional guests, this year they decided to go even bigger, welcoming more students and even PSU faculty who call "home" somewhere far from Pittsburg.
They have their work cut out for them. The couple, along with a few friends, will prepare 100 pounds of meat on Thanksgiving including three 20-pound turkeys, five racks of ribs, a big ham, and brisket. With plans to rise around 4 a.m., Arcuino also plans to make a full menu of Filipino foods. The couple have recruited family and friends to bring traditional sides such as sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and pies.
Because many international students don't have cars, she plans to start making the rounds to pick people up before dinner begins at about 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
Think your holiday is sounding less stressful? She and Daneke and a group of volunteers also have to pick up enough tables and chairs, as well as set up a Wii corner, a football corner, and yard games.
"It's mainly about the international students. We wanted to do something special for them," Arcuino said. "This is a way for them to be a part of our family."
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