Fifty international students studying at Chicago-area colleges and their family members spent Thanksgiving in the Geneseo area.

Fifty international students studying at Chicago-area colleges and their family members spent Thanksgiving in the Geneseo area.

The Geneseo International Thanksgiving Fellowship Program, now in its 53rd year, pairs international students with American hosts for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The international guests arrived Nov. 21 and departed Nov. 25.

In addition to spending Thanksgiving with their host families, the guests had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including shopping, attending church services and visiting area attractions.

Guests and their hosts all attended an international potluck supper and program on Nov. 24 at St. John's Lutheran Church in rural Geneseo.

Visitor Al Hussain Almakrami from Saudi Arabia said the weekend was "the best time in my life."

Guowang Zhang of China said, "For the first time, I learned more about farmland, religion and many other things."

Aria Razmaria, who was born in Iran and raised in Austria, mentioned the "friendliness" and "hospitality" he encountered during his visit.

Sinuo Li of China said she missed her family but added, "This Thanksgiving gave me a good chance to find my new family here. I'm not a stranger anymore — not a newcomer."

The 50 guests were from 14 countries, including: Austria, China, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Hosts for the 53rd annual Geneseo International Thanksgiving Fellowship Program include:

Geneseo: Mark and Jessica Bunce*, Joe and Nancy Coon*, Brian and Rebecca Daniels, Stephen and Susan Fonteyne, Arlyn and Marcia Helke, Bryce and Missy Henderson*, John and Aletta Holloway, Richard and Mary Kintigh, Bob and Betty Palaski, Craig and Kathy Patterson*, Mike and Vicki Rowlands and Fletcher and Diane Whittenberg*.

Aledo: Jim and Beth VanVooren*.

Cambridge: Kenneth and Cindra German*

Cleveland: Bill and Marcia Herr.

Coal Valley: Mary Jo Edwards*

Colona: David and Tammy Beeson*, Don and Jackie Catour, Dan and Lorna Dauw and Brian and Candy Jones.

Davenport, Iowa: Joe and Cindy Ott.

East Moline: Betty Hogue.

LeClaire, Iowa: Jeff and Pam Brammann.

Moline: Shellie Darr.

Rapids City: Chuck and Judy McCoy.

* Designates first-time hosts.

Any community member wanting to become involved in any of the international programs of the Geneseo International Thanksgiving Fellowship is asked to contact the Helkes at 944-4486. The program especially needs farm hosts, young hosts, local driver guides (sometimes with vans) and occasional language assistance.