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UF International Student Celebrates Thanksgiving Feeding Homeless

Adrian Kern
Adrian Kern, a 19-year-old international student from Spain, spent his Thanksgiving preparing and serving meals for the homeless residents of Gainesville. Photo courtesy of Adrian Kern.

Thanksgiving for most University of Florida students means a 5-day weekend filled with family, food and shopping. But for Adrian Kern, it meant something different.

Kern, a 19-year-old international student from Spain, woke up Thanksgiving morning and decided to spend his day serving the homeless residents of Gainesville.

“I figured since my family was in Spain and that I was here with no plans, I'd help out others,” he said.

Kern headed to Wal-Mart that morning and spent about $50 on bread, turkey, cookies and water for the residents to eat. Once he finished preparing the sandwiches, he drove around town on his black 2008 Suzuki motorcycle, offering food to those who were on the streets.

“In all honesty, I've grown up all my life being taught to help others,” he said. "There's a lot of poverty in Europe, so throughout elementary and high school I participated in food drives and clothes collections for the less fortunate.”

After visiting 10 residents, a police officer referred Kern to St. Francis House, a homeless shelter in Gainesville, Florida. Once he got there, Kern said he realized his meals would be distributed quickly and decided to hand them over to the shelter.

St. Francis House hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for visitors on Thanksgiving day from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. The meal consisted of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including a turkey.

Shari Anderson, the mother of Kern’s best friend, Ben, said Adrian’s act of kindness didn’t surprise her at all.

“I've only known Adrian for a little less than a year but from the minute I met him I knew he was a very genuine person with a big heart. Some people just strike you like that immediately,” she said.

Anderson also said Kern’s act of kindness made an impact on her.

“He made me stop and think and contemplate what I wasn’t doing with my time that day,” she said.

Anderson hopes to team up with Kern next year and celebrate Thanksgiving by serving others in the community.

“Adrian set a great example for us and, quite possibly, maybe we can just team up with him next year and reach even more people,” she said.

Kern said he wants to join a volunteer group that works with the homeless on a regular basis so he doesn’t have to wait until Thanksgiving next year to help out again.

“Truthfully I wanted to feed a lot more, but I just couldn't find anyone else,” he said.

Aside from getting into the spirit of the holidays, Kern said that the most valuable thing he gained from this experience was a harsh realization of the reality we live in.

“It made me realize that often times I complain about situations or about not having something, but I fail to realize there are so many people out there who legitimately having nothing,” he said.


Kat is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.