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Youth celebrate Thanksgiving at Center on Halsted
by Jamie Anne Royce

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LGBT community organizations hosted a pre-Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 18, in partnership with the Center on Halsted's youth program.

Local chefs, who had previously catered an event together at the Center, wanted to collaborate on another community-based event and began organizing a dinner with Team101Chicago and Christopher House of Hope as well as social LGBT fraternal organizations Omega Pi Psi and Alpha Pi Psi.

"Our motto is, 'We all we got,'" said chef Shiane Wilcoxen, founder of Team101Chicago. "If we don't work together, who's going to work with us? We have to work together."

"Life is very important. Never give up on your dreams," said Charlene Mabiens of Christopher House of Hope. "We always find out what's best for our youth, and then go from there."

Many LGBT people have strained relationships with their blood relatives or who are kicked out of their homes when coming out, leaving some people in the community without a safe place to celebrate the holidays.

Of the approximately 70 people in attendance, many were homeless or displaced LGBT youth. The organizers wanted to serve those who may not have otherwise had a Thanksgiving meal.

"There are a lot of youth in our community with no where else to go," said Dakojo Smith, an intern at the Center.

Many street-based LGBT youth sporadically frequent resource centers and other gathering places like The Center on Halsted youth lounge. Because they don't have a solid living situation or a way to stay in touch, so many youth reunited with chosen family.

"It's a support thing," said Scott Franklin, who frequents the youth lounge at The Center on Halsted. "I come here to see a lot of friends. It's like a family reunion."

The event also featured performances by the youth and presentations on the organizations involved and the youth services they offer. The dinner was supported by community donations of time and money.

Many youth felt welcomed and supported by the organizers, whom they didn't know before this event.

"Being here in the youth space, this is like my family here, so for [the organizers] to come out here and do this for us, it was greatness," said Smith.

Many of the attendees indicated interest in future community family dinners, not to limit gathering and sharing resources to the holidays.

"It would be a great inspiration to the youth to continue these dinners. They give them a sense of community, a sense of support, a sense of family," said Darren Smith, a youth culinary artist.

"The outcome of the event was beautiful. I was crying talking to the youth. It was like a big family reunion for them," said Kyara Hanes, secretary of Team101Chicago. "Today was so community-based. Everyone came together for this. It was a good day."

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