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Some longtime Louisvillians and newcomers to the city celebrated Thanksgiving early at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services on Wednesday.

About 100 people gathered at midday at the ESL School at 22nd and Market streets. Before digging into turkey, pies, macaroni and cheese, and other traditional Thanksgiving fare served by volunteers, attendees heard speeches from fellow Louisvillians, including Mayor Greg Fischer.

Nanda Thero, originally from Sri Lanka, has lived in Louisville for nine years. He says it’s not only important for him to attend the lunch, but also to be helpful to the city’s resettled refugees.

“And also as a Buddhist monk that’s my duty to help whoever came from the other country, whoever need support to attend them and helping them … make them happy to start a new life here,” says Thero.

Nanda TheroRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Nanda Thero

“This is an opportunity for us to bring together both the folks we have served over the last year and folks who have served with us here in helping to make our refugees, refugee clients feel more at home and acculturated here in Louisville,” says Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville. 

Alinoti Malebo, 18, and a student at Iroquois High School, also attended. He plans to spend some of his time off from school writing poetry. He’s lived in Louisville for two years. His parents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but he’s never been there.

“I was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania,” he says. “When people ask me where I’m from, I usually say I’m Congolese but I was born in Tanzania.”

Alinoti MaleboRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Alinoti Malebo

Malebo is still getting used to Thanksgiving cuisine in his new home.

“Some strange food for me,” he says about the lunch. “But I really enjoy it.”

This was the third annual Thanksgiving Lunch by Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.