“I’m honored to be able to provide them with a safe space for them to celebrate Thanksgiving and for them to be thankful for what they do have,” said Chelsea Barker, coordinator of LGBT Services, who organized the event with the help of Christopher DuBois, president of Wilde Stein, an LGBT ally organization.
“I work very closely with Chelsea, the [coordinator] for LGBT studies,” DuBois said. “We work in tandem to put these events together for the students on campus.”
Hundreds of people flowed through Estabrooke Hall’s ballroom, some stopping for only a few minutes, others staying for the duration of the Thanksgiving celebration. Many of the attendants are involved in LGBT services, Wilde Stein, the Rainbow Resource Center or are LGBT allies. Some students not involved in LGBT services on campus showed up to Thanksgiving. Many were commuter students, who found out about the event via Facebook or word of mouth, rather than the ad campaign on campus.
Kenda Scheele, assistant vice president and senior associate dean of UMaine, took the microphone after everyone got their first plate of food.
“Let’s give thanks to everyone who put this event together. It was very well done,” Scheele said.
“There’s enough seats for 120 exactly, but we have more people than seats right now. We just ran out of forks. The turnout makes the work that was put into it well worth it,” Barker said.
Students were pleased with the event.
“I personally have two mothers who are lesbian, so I like to do stuff like this,” said Kaitlin Crockett, a senior in UMaine’s athletic training program.“I like to just share my story and hear other people’s stories. Everyone’s really awesome. You can always talk to people at this kind of thing.”
The event had many fun moments.
“Brian and Katie, they’re over there hiding because they don’t want to get up, but I wanted to tell everybody those two are getting married,” said Tiffany Pedro, a student at UMaine. There was uproarious applause.
DuBois followed up on the microphone: “And if anyone didn’t get a fork, we now have new forks.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the pumpkin cheesecake just arrived,” said Judith Josiah-Martin, director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and the Multicultural Center at UMaine.
The mood of the event was influenced by the recent election.
“The election went as perfectly as it could have gone for our community. The students are happy, which makes me happy,” Barker said. “You get a feel for how far we’ve come.”
Barker said she did not experience any of the usual harassment surrounding LGBT events this year.
“We’ve had students vandalize our flyers and things like that that we put up, but I haven’t seen that this year,” Barker said.