Thanks & Giving: What Students Did to Celebrate Thanksgiving at GMC

By Binh Bui’14

Last Tuesday, November 19th, a dedicated group of Green Mountain College (GMC) students, who were led by Jensen Morgan ’14 and José Gálvez Contreras ’11, GMC’s Outreach Coordinator, collaborated with each other and residents of Poultney to organize the first Annual Day of Poultney Thanks & Giving. Through this event, all GMC community, Poultney businesses, local residents, and even the Young at Heart Senior Center came together to celebrate the community and togetherness. First time in the town collaboration history, 22 students planned in two months for an event that tied both college and town communities together.

Hi, can you briefly introduce about yourself?
My name is Jensen Morgan from Salt Lake City, Utah. I am a senior, majoring in Renewable Energy and Ecological Design and Sustainable Community Design.

Are you graduating this December?

Yes, I am.

Well, congratulations! That’s great.
Can you tell me how you came up with the idea of Thanks & Giving?

I wanted to strengthen the relationship between GMC and the town community. When I spoke to Jose, he also had the same thought. That’s how we started at the first place.

It was a large event. How did you prepare and collaborate with others to make it happen?
As mentioned above, it began with only Jose and I. We later recruited 22 volunteers, couple GMC staff, and some citizens of Poultney. The recruitment was kind of organic. We talked to people about the idea, and words’ spread out. Jose also connected with many people in town so we invited all people who were interested in came to our meeting. We got a good, mixed group of people in different school years with different majors.  

For the management, at the beginning, we were kind of take turn to facilitate our meetings. Afterward, people decided to take ownerships in different groups which focused on specific functions: marketing, volunteer coordination, community meals, workshop activities, and community services. We communicated with each other through both meetings and emails to get updated information from each groups and discuss new ideas. Everyone was kind of helping each other in different ways.


Tell me more about your role in helping prepare this event.
I organized meetings and coordinated discussion and activities among groups. Jose and I took turn to send out emails, reminding people about their coming jobs and new information. It was generally a supporting role to provide needs for every group. I, together with Maggie Ganguly-Kiefner, was also in charge of volunteer coordination


How long did it take for you to prepare for the event?
We started meeting on every Tuesday at 8pm at the third week of this semester. That meant it took almost three months to prepare and complete every single thing before the event date.   

It seemed the marketing group did a great job. I constantly heard about the event during last month and even saw volunteers standing outside of Dining Hall to call people to get involved.
I think so. Jose and I walked around town and chatted about the event with all people we met. We put fliers up around campus and Poultney, and went to local businesses to inform them our event.

So what were events and activities in Thanks & Giving?
We wanted it to be a day of service so we organized various activities, including free community meal, community service, and workshops. Free breakfast and lunch were provided at local churches, and dinner was at GMC Dining Hall. I think we had 83 and approximately 200 people go to breakfast and lunch. For dinner, we got funded and gave away 75 free meal tickets for town residents.

Also there were 24 service engagement and community service around Poultney during the event. Approximately 130 students from GMC, Poultney High School, and Lehigh High School volunteered and engaged in community services during the event.


What did you feel the most challenging thing while preparing for this event?
It was coordinating and organizing volunteers, as well as marketing, getting the word out and making the information clear.

How did you overcome those challenges?
I took time to walk around talking with people in town and on campus to spread the words out. I kept checking back with people to make sure the information clear and correct.  

Overall, what do you think about Thanks & Giving?
I think it was a big success. I am excited to see how it will develop next year. It was nice to see classes get involved. Next year I think GMC should cancel classes and encourage staff, students and faculty to participate in Thanks & Giving in order to communicate how important developing positive relationships with the people of Poultney is to the authentic sustainability.

Awesome! Thank you for organizing such a great event and spending your time today. Good luck with your graduation.  

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