By: Kia Makarechi & Houston Chapter Leader
During the week of Thanksgiving, PAAIA chapters nationwide celebrated the second annual PAAIA Persian Thanks. Chapter volunteers, local merchants, and businesses came together to collect food items, donations, and make a variety of Iranian and American foods to share with shelters, food banks, and shelters. The Houston and New York Tristate Chapters are two of PAAIA’s chapters that gave thanks – Persian Style!
Houston Hosts Two Persian Thanks Events
Houston Chapter Leaders, NexGen Leaders, and PAAIA Members proudly celebrated “Persian Thanks” during the Thanksgiving week by organizing two events.
On November 19th and 20th, PAAIA members were encouraged to donate money, canned foods, clothing, and hygiene items to an area collection center serving thousands of individuals in need. The donation drive was enthusiastically welcomed by PAAIA Houston members and substantial monetary donations and thousands of items were delivered to Houston‘s Search Homeless Services by chapter leaders and volunteers.
On Thanksgiving morning, PAAIA and PAAIA NexGen members met at 7:00 am at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, to help their fellow Houstonians bring Thanksgiving festivities to others. Volunteers sorted through canned foods, clothing, toys, and served Thanksgiving meals, including over 3,500 turkeys that were started the night before. PAAIA members along with other volunteers proudly served a complete Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to over 20,000 persons. who had gathered at the Center.
PAAIA NexGen’s New York Chapter Blends Culture and Philanthropy for Persian Thanks
When PAAIA’s New York/Tri-State NexGen chapter began making their plans for Persian Thanks, it was decided that they would maximize engagement in the program if they combined giving back with a unique cultural experience.
With that mission in mind, the inspiration for a Persian cooking class was born. Leila Makarechi and Ali Geramian and other NexGen leaders built on the theme that young PAAIA members would enjoy becoming well-acquainted with Iranian recipes. A cooking class geared at this group was combined with donations pulled through Shabeh Jomeh activities to bring a truly unique experience for all involved.
Iman Bacodori and Shaheen Ensanyat the two leaders of the NexGen NY chapter worked closely with Shabeh Jomeh to help with the donation drive at that week’s Shabeh Jomeh networking event. The cost of attending the event was fulfilling one or more items from the Dwelling Place of New York’s wish list. Dwelling Place is a privately-funded transitional residence and shelter for women. More information about the Dwelling Place can be found at http://www.thedwellingplaceofny.org/index.html.
On Saturday, November 19th, those who had signed up ahead of time collected their donations and attended a cooking class taught by none other than famed Iranian chef Mrs. Mahin Alavi. Mrs. Alavi has appeared on the Nate Berkus Show and is widely regarded as an expert on Persian cuisine. At the event, which took place at the residence of PAAIA Board Member, Tamilla Ghodsi and her family, NexGeners prepared stuffed grape leaves in the traditional Azari style and sampled other delicacies from around Iran.
The afternoon proved to be an embodiment of the promise of NexGen — Iranian youth coming together for the greater good while meeting members of their peer community and exploring their own culture.
The successful “Persian Thanks Week” events have become a tradition adopted by PAAIA chapters across the United States. The volunteers have once again turned an inspiring idea in to an Iranian American tradition. “To do good as a community on this most American of American holidays is our way of showing that we are grateful to have a home away from our ancestral homeland, that we care, and that we want to share our cultural heritage with our fellow Americans” said one of PAAIA volunteers to the organizers of the Thanksgiving day event.