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Michiana couple reacts to NYT article for decades of giving back to community

The couple invites hundreds of Notre Dame students to their own home on Thanksgiving. So what’s the plan this year?
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:20 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - One local family – devoted to their community – is getting some much-deserved national attention ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

And it’s for their own tradition of giving back to their community.

Doctor Jan Sanders and Leo McWilliams are featured in the New York Times for their decades of service in Michiana. They’ve fed hundreds of Notre Dame students, in their own home on Thanksgiving. The popular feast taking an unfamiliar turn though due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to be dreary this year,” Dr. Jan Sanders said. “I think this is the first year in 15 or 20 years we’ve not had a group, because of COVID.”

Dr. Sanders is a local pediatrician and she says for a long time she was always on-call for Thanksgiving so she never traveled.

“I’m always stuck in the house. So everybody decided to bring the party to our house.”

Leo McWilliams is her husband and works at the University of Notre Dame as Assistant Dean of Engineering. He says they still plan to give meals to students who don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving.

“We’re going to drive it around, we’re going to give it to folks, we’re going to try to use as much technology as we can to try to link everybody together,” McWilliams said. “So we’ve got a couple things up our sleeves we’re going to try to do.”

Notre Dame graduate Ihuoma Nwaogwugwu normally attended the feast for Thanksgiving, even going so far as to refusing to go home because of the camaraderie and safe space the couple provided to her and her classmates.

“One thing you’ll always remember is the smiles,” she said adding Jan and Leo may feel heartbroken not to have their normal gathering this year.

Nwaogwugwu was McWilliams’ student, she studied engineering.

The couple spoke with Joshua Short. You can see the story in the video above.

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