ST. GEORGE – It’s America’s first holiday, Thanksgiving, a tradition that began hundreds of years ago when a handful of isolated immigrants were invited by our country’s original residents to take part in a feast of food and thanks for a successful harvest.
One local businessman, himself an immigrant, has made the holiday his way of saying thanks to our country and the St. George community. Frank Habibian, owner of several residential teen treatment centers, has been hosting a community Thanksgiving dinner in St. George for more than four decades.
On Thursday, Red Rock Canyon School will open its doors to thousands of area residents who have made the annual dinner part of their holiday tradition.
Last year, Habibian and company welcomed 3,000 guests who dined on more than 200 turkeys, hundreds of pies and all the usual holiday side dishes one can expect at a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Hundreds of volunteers and countless donors make the dinner possible.
“They come to me like a bunch of angels and try to help,” he said.
This year, more guests are expected than ever before, and for that Habibian is thankful.
“I love the people here and whatever I have here is because of the people,” he said. “They helped me to be who I am.”
Everyone is invited to attend the dinner that begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.
“If you come a little bit later, don’t worry, we’ll feed you too,” he said.
Red Rock Canyon School’s dinner is not just for the needy. College students, seniors, families and neighbors are welcome and encouraged to attend what Habibian sees as a celebration of community and love.
“People come together for that beautiful day, a special day,” he said. “They’re coming together as a big family and everyone (is) welcome here.”
His passion for bringing people together began at his first Thanksgiving many years ago when as a recent immigrant to America he was invited by strangers to attend their Thanksgiving celebration.
While studying English at a language school in Washington D.C., he and a fellow student were invited to celebrate the holiday with a local family. The invitation was a tonic for the young man who was making his way in America all alone.
“I went to Baltimore to their house,” he said. “That’s the time I find the kindness and the love that America has for everyone. These people were so kind and so wonderful.”
It was during that dinner when he resolved to share their kindness with as many people as possible. With the help of his fellow language student who spoke English just a bit better than he, Habibian thanked his hosts.
“It’s just like yesterday,” he said, recalling the event. “I stood up and … said how wonderful you guys are. How you’ve made me be part of your family. I promised from then on, that if I come to be somebody in this country, I will do my best to make everybody happy as much as they made me happy. And whatever I say is not enough because kindness is something just like love. The more love you give, the more kindness you give to other people the more you receive.”
- When: Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Where: Red Rock Canyon School, 747 E. St. George Blvd., St. George
- Admission: Free to the public
- Red Rock Canyon School Website | Facebook | Telephone: 435-673-6111
UPDATED Nov. 26, 9:45 a.m.: Time of dinner has been corrected; it runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., not 5 p.m.
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