Although Thanksgiving is almost less than a week away, the Massachusetts Career Development Institute (MCDI) cafeteria was jubilating with delectable food, camaraderie, and communal spirit between local Springfield residents and Springfield College faculty and students.
This annual Thanksgiving dinner is a joint effort between MCDI and Springfield College that is an open door event for anyone to come. Residents from all over Springfield, particularly the Upper Hill, Old Hill, and Mason Square neighborhoods, came trickling in on the brisk November evening between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The MCDI is an institution that provides skill-training opportunities to those not served by the public entity. They annually train 1,800 students each year who obtain the ability to acquire jobs in the work field. Their goal is to ensure that well trained people are available for career directed employment in the private sector. Additionally, they work directly with private sector firms to upgrade the technical skills of employees in organizations.
This dinner has been hosted at the MCDI since 1999. Guests were warmly greeted with brief speeches from Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and President Richard B. Flynn right before the dinner was served by Aramark and the MCDI food service staff. A festive meal consisting of carved turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin and apple pie were generously offered.
Additionally, there were decorations made by students from the Elias Brookings elementary school and their Springfield College mentors in the Partners program. SC student Josh Schupack even provided live musical entertainment as he eloquently played his violin throughout the evening.
A woman from the downtown area, who wished to be referred simply as Andrea, was at the dinner for a second year and was pleased once again by the service.
“It’s good and my kids like it,” said Andrea. “I think it’s nice. If I’m living and God makes it permissible for me to be here, I’ll be here. Every year I’ll come because at least I won’t have to cook!”
Springfield residents, many of which brought their families, were not only elated to have a hot and fresh Thanksgiving meal, but to see the faces of Springfield College administrators, professors, and students. Gerald J. Griffin Sr, and his son, Gerald Griffin Jr., residents of the Old Hill, were both at the dinner and expressed their gratitude for the community collaborating together.
“It’s something that allows the community to share. Springfield College and the MCDI are part of the community, and we appreciate it,” said Griffin Sr. “We think it’s a good opportunity to visit and see the Springfield College administrators, president and some of the front line folks. And we really appreciate face to face meeting with the students.”
Griffin Jr. also added his reception of the Springfield College presence.
“We get a chance to talk with each other. That’s very important. Instead of being isolated, [Springfield College] interacts with the community.”
Although attendance this year was not quite as large as last year, the atmosphere was still buzzing with chatter and interactions between everyone. President Flynn was roaming around the cafeteria mingling with just about everybody near him. It was indeed a welcoming and collaborative scene.
Springfield College’s Dean of Students, David Braverman, who was attending the dinner for his seventh time, noted that the relationship between Springfield College, the MCDI, and the local community was very special.
“This event does not forge a relationship; it’s an example of an ongoing relationship,” said Braverman. “We do this to provide some service for the community but also to meet the community. I think it’s great for students to come out and talk to people and realize who they are and who we are.”
Charlene Elvers, the Director of Student Volunteer Programs for Springfield College, has also played an instrumental role in the annual dinner and hopes to expand on new opportunities in the future.
“It’s beneficial to recognize that we all live in the same community,” said Elvers. “Years ago I think Springfield College felt a lot more removed from the community. We’ve done a lot to reach out and make it known that we’re happy our schools located in this community. We have a lot to learn from the community and a lot to offer. We want to have that collaborative relationship so that it’s mutually beneficial.”
Matt Vaghi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org