A group of Hokies didn’t have to worry about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on Thanksgiving Day.

Seven Virginia Tech students who spent Nov. 26 in on-campus quarantine and isolation due to COVID-19 enjoyed a special Thanksgiving dinner delivered to their rooms and were invited to gather virtually with fellow Hokies and Student Affairs staff that day.

“During these times, it’s the closest thing to being at the Thanksgiving table,” said Sarah Stayer, student life coordinator for the Division of Student Affairs who helped organize the events.

Staff at West End Market, a campus dining spot, prepared meals for each student on Thanksgiving Day. The dinner menu included slow-roasted turkey with turkey gravy, mashed garlic roasted potatoes, herbed stuffing, steamed broccoli, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin bars. They also offered a vegan and vegetarian menu with sliced tempeh with forestiere sauce, vegan whipped potatoes, mushroom and thyme bread stuffing, and butternut squash pudding.

Executive Chef Scott Surratt and Josh McMillan, assistant manager at West End Market, volunteered to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the students.

“Since the students in isolation and quarantine will have to share company with their friends and family virtually this year, we are hoping that the food will be the best they have ever had on Thanksgiving,” said Brandon Hendricks, associate director of Dining Services. As of Nov. 24, Dining Services had delivered nearly 18,000 meals to students in isolation and quarantine.

Hendricks and his wife also threw in a Thanksgiving gift for each student — a $25 Amazon gift card.

“I feel a connection to the students who are in there [quarantine/isolation],” said Hendricks, who has been in charge of coordinating meals for the students since the fall semester began. “It’s a hard thing to be in there. We personally wanted to help take care of them.”

The students who are living in New Hall West, the primary campus isolation and quarantine space, chose not to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Some tested positive for COVID-19 or were awaiting test results.

Despite staying on campus, Thanksgiving was a surprisingly meaningful day for Jillian Boersma, a Virginia Tech student who spent Nov. 17 through Nov. 27 in New Hall West. She enjoyed the vegan dinner, which she called “delightful,” and she participated in the virtual Zoom gathering. Along with students, the Zoom gathering included Frank Shushok Jr., vice president for Student Affairs; Sean Grube, director of Housing and Residence Life; and Stayer.

“The hosts made it a very fun and welcoming environment, and we just chatted for a bit,” said Boersma, whose suitemate was in quarantine at the same time. “It was important to me because I felt a little less lonely after going an entire week without even seeing another human being. I was starting to think I was the only human in existence at that point.”

Student Affairs supports students who are in quarantine and isolation in other ways, such as offering an on-call isolation assistant team from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, even during the Thanksgiving holiday week. The isolation assistants are students who are available to assist Hokies in quarantine and isolation.

“We want to make sure that people are feeling connected,” Stayer said.

— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone