U of Md. medical students host Thanksgiving for the needy

Anthony Clark hadn't even gotten a plate of food and already he was overcome with emotion, just seeing friends, having a medical student check his blood pressure and knowing hundreds of people had given their time to make sure those needier had a taste of Thanksgiving.

"Without them, a lot of people wouldn't have no meal," said the 53-year-old from Glen Burnie, tears rolling down his cheeks. "This is really a beautiful place to come."

Clark meets his adopted holiday family every year at Project Feast, in what's become a tradition organized by University of Maryland School of Medicine students. No one's sure how it started, but for at least 23 years, students, staff and faculty prepare a turkey dinner for the less fortunate — paid for with contributions from the School of Medicine Student Council, the University Student Government Association and the Medical Alumni Association.

The cafeteria at Upton's Booker T. Washington Middle School was cheery and warm Thursday morning as people from the neighborhood piled plates with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn and four kinds of pie.

The fixings might have been from a store, but the turkey was homemade — by med students.

Earlier in the week, students volunteered to bring home a turkey and cook it, often with explicit, step-by-step instructions on how to do it, starting with: Remove the plastic. For many of them, including second-year med student Amanda Wong from California, it was their first time roasting a bird.

"Being new to Baltimore, all I see is the med school community," the 25-year-old said. "There is a bigger community than our school."

After their meal, feast attendees could get their blood pressure checked and shop for clothing and pantry items collected through a campus donations drive.

University officials figure the feast feeds about 400 people every year. Community volunteers augment volunteers from the school. Many — volunteers and those enjoying the food — come back every year.

Judy Britz of Laurel was there again with her daughter, Sarah, a second-year med student. Britz, who worked to instill in her children the desire to give back, was proud that her daughter helped organize the event and gratified to be helping.

"The people who come here are thankful, just joyful going through the line," Britz said. "They wish us a happy Thanksgiving and you see it's not a one-way street. We're receiving as well as giving."