The Samaritas nonprofit gave away more than 100 Thanksgiving meals to families in need Nov. 15.

The Samaritas nonprofit gave away more than 100 Thanksgiving meals to families in need Nov. 15.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Nonprofit gives Thanksgiving meals to refugee families in need

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published November 21, 2023

 Thanksgiving meal boxes distributed to refugee families by Samaritas included items such as a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and dessert.

Thanksgiving meal boxes distributed to refugee families by Samaritas included items such as a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and dessert.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


TROY — On Nov. 15, the Samaritas nonprofit organization gave away Thanksgiving meals to more than 100 of the refugee families they are devoted to helping.

Liliana Masnytska is a supervisor for new American services at Samaritas. She serves as a case worker for many families and works to help them transition to American citizenship and obtain whatever aid is available, since families struggle so much. She said providing a Thanksgiving meal can be incredibly meaningful as those families adjust to life in the United States, often with little in the way of resources.

“The holidays are right around the corner, and not every family — especially with refugee families — has the resources to celebrate. Samaritas is giving away food boxes to clients in our care,” she said. “We had a list of 100 families who we are distributing food to. … These are those who have requested it because they are in most need or they were nominated by their case managers as needing the extra help.”

The giveaway provides a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a dessert, such as cake mix, so refugee families can enjoy their first Thanksgiving without struggling even more.

“The turkey giveaway has been going on for the last three years in partnership with the Woodside Bible Church; today, the (church) from Romeo is helping us with funding and volunteers,” said Ebony Dooley, the communications director for Samaritas

The Samaritas staff want the public to realize the need for aid is real among most refugee families.

“Samaritas operates one of Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement programs, assisting more than 1,000 refugees each year,” said Masnytska. “Since I’ve been working with Samaritas, we’ve been doing amazing things for people who came to the United States without anything. They truly need everything. They came to this country with just one suitcase. They struggle with documents, with paperwork, with housing, and sometimes they come with additional medical needs.”

She added that efforts like the Thanksgiving giveaway can make an enormous difference.

“I work similar to a case manager, and I have people who come up to us with tears in their eyes and they call us ‘American angels,’” said Masnytska. “They need so much that we don’t even think about, whether it’s a home or food or a pair of shoes. They need this kind of help. Some have no language. They need help figuring out how to schedule a medical appointment or how to find a church. I am proud to work with Samaritas and to get to make a difference like this.”

The Samaritas staff said that the need among immigrant and refugee families is even more crucial than ever with difficulties in the job market, housing costs and rising food prices.

“We are seeing most refugees coming from Afghanistan and Ukraine,” said Masnytska. “Since the war in Ukraine began, we’ve served something like 1,200 people. We have an office in Dearborn which helps a lot of Afghanistan refugees, and we have an office in Warren specifically for Ukrainian refugees. … I came (to the United States) eight years ago the same way as many of these refugees. That is why I have a passion to be with these people and help them. The holiday season is a chance to change ourselves and be kinder.”

Complicating this matter is that refugees from different countries fall into different categories dictated by the federal government, entitling them or denying them different benefits or aid eligibility.

“Each wave of refugees get a different level of resources that they are eligible for,” explained Dooley. “Those under Ukrainian Humanitarian Parole can get help from us via clothes or toys, but we can’t help them apply for government services like government aid or Medicaid if that group of refugees don’t qualify.”

Samaritas is also looking for help in future programs, including a toy drive for refugee children during the holidays.

“We’ll also have a toy drive coming up so we can give presents for refugee children so they can get something this holiday season,” said Masnytska. “They need gift cards and clothes and so much more. We welcome funds that people might donate too.”

Those interested in contributing to the toy drive or who wish to donate other items can drop them off at Samaritas’ Troy office, 2170 E. Big Beaver Road. Information on other donation opportunities or what kinds of toys and items are wanted can be found at

“As far as what to donate, sometimes we are looking for something in particular, like clothes for a particular age range,” said Dooley. “We also don’t want to trigger children who may have escaped very violent situations, so we don’t want toys having to do with war, for instance.”

Both Masnytska and Dooley hope their efforts will allow a few more families to have a happy holiday season.

“We want to bring joy to families and show to them that we think about them and we give something like love to them,” said Masnytska. “Everyone likes a holiday and to get to sit with your family and enjoy some good food.”