Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many people. After all, what’s not to love about family and friends gathered together to share a great meal and count their blessings? However, for those in the LGBTQ+ community, Thanksgiving and other holidays are not always a cause for celebration. Complicated family dynamics and lack of acceptance sometimes make for lonely and blue days this time of year.

That’s exactly the reason that the Friendlier City Project recently hosted its inaugural Queer Thanksgiving feast. Held at the Wheeling Yacht Club on Tuesday, November 22 and catered by several local restaurants who donated their signature dishes, the event was attended by about 30 guests who enjoyed an evening of food, fun and friendship in a safe and accepting atmosphere. Guests were welcomed by FCP organizers Rosemary Ketchum and Mikaya Green, then there was a brief pause for an emotional moment of silence in memory of the victims of the recent mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Many of the Queer Thanksgiving attendees were still processing their emotions over this tragedy even as they gathered for a time of festive celebration. This hate crime weighed heavily on the minds of some guests, who told Weelunk that they were initially hesitant to attend the dinner in the wake of the shooting. However, those who didn’t allow fear to win out were rewarded with an evening of comfort and pleasant diversion.

  • There was plenty of good food and festive decor.

The initial idea for this type of gathering for the LGBTQ+ community was suggested by FCP member Robyn Plunkett, who remarked that although she was glad to see a good turnout for the dinner, she is also sad to think that many of the guests may not have anywhere else to go for Thanksgiving. She was happy, however, that FCP provided this opportunity for people to be together for a night of celebration in warm and welcoming surroundings. “It’s important because everyone deserves a place where they feel like they belong; where they can be their real selves. If one’s blood relatives won’t offer that place, then we will,” Plunkett said.

Food for the feast was provided by Midge’s Kitchen, Whisk, Elle & Jack’s and Table 304. Additional donations by East Wheeling Clayworks, Enlighten Aesthetics, Alex Panas, Jessica Zalenski, Terri Jarrett, David Ray, Amy Ramsey and Justin Hibbs also contributed to the huge success of the dinner.

  • Guests compiled a list of things for which they are thankful.

“The event went really well!” shared Ellie McGregor, who helped to plan and coordinate the evening. “We had a good turnout and the donations from our sponsors went above and beyond anything we had hoped for when we started planning. Events with FCP are always so wonderful – full of joy, love and really good people. It’s always a pleasure to be a part of anything the FCP does!”

Following the sumptuous repast, guests of all ages enjoyed playing board games together and posing for fun pictures at a photo booth provided by Better Together Moments photography. In addition, guests traced their handprints to make “feathers” in a rainbow of colors for a paper turkey displayed on the wall. They also created an “I am thankful for…” poster where they noted the things for which they are most grateful. That list included safe spaces, food, friends and a welcoming community, all of which FCP provided in abundance at the celebration.

• Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a lifelong resident of Wheeling and a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School, where she discovered her love of writing as a member of the yearbook staff. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management at the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she utilizes that degree at the international law firm where she is employed. After work, you can find her relaxing with family, friends, and her clowder of cats.

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