The common room was full of residents, faculty and staff who were all socializing with one another. Workers served food such as fried chicken, green beans and macaroni while a game of Kahoot was going on during the meal.
People were laughing and smiling, and Marva Clark, McKee Hall custodian, was in the middle of it all.
Marva Clark hosts an annual dinner so students can still have the joy of a Thanksgiving meal if they cannot go home for the holidays.
“I just do it because it’s in my heart,” Clark said.
Clark has worked as a custodian for Mississippi State University since 2007 and has worked in several dormitories across campus, including Critz, Griffis, Nunnelee and formerly Evans Hall.
Clark said she always enjoyed giving back to others around her, even at her previous jobs. She credits this to watching her mom give back to others as a child.
The event Clark now holds each year did not originally start as a meal. Originally, it began with her making cakes for the residents and hosting potluck meals.
Eventually, the idea for the Thanksgiving meal was formed. The meal, which Clark has done for six or seven years now, always takes place on the Thursday before Thanksgiving.
Clark originally made all of the food on her own, but she eventually started catering the event. Despite this, she still makes certain homemade foods. Before the meal is served, Clark says grace to bless the food.
“I don’t give anyone anything I wouldn’t take, I give them the best,” Clark said.
The event does not just feature a dinner. Speakers have also come in the past, including representatives from Starkville Police Department and Starkville Fire Department.
Clark said she makes the meal because she wants the residents of McKee to have something special for the holidays if they cannot go home.
“The most important thing to me is to make sure these young men get a good Thanksgiving meal,” Clark said. “I just make sure they eat good and that they’re happy.”
Clark said she does not do anything for recognition. Instead, she does good for her community.
“When you do good, it comes back to you,” Clark said.
As for the residents, she has a special relationship with them, knowing many of them by name.
“I just love them,” Clark said. “They call me grandma. I treat them like my own children. They talk to me, and I talk to them.”
Clark said, for the ones who can’t go home during Thanksgiving break, and her meal is all they have, she hopes they value it.
“I pray to God that they are grateful, and I believe they are,” Clark said.
Clark hopes to expand the Thanksgiving meal into a bigger event one day, where she can involve not only the residents of McKee but Sessums Hall as well. Eventually, Clark sees the Thanksgiving meal turning into a campus-wide event.
The value of Clark and what she does for others stays with some even after they no longer live or work in the building. For David Cichocki, this rings true.
Cichocki, a junior computer engineering major, worked as a residential adviser in McKee Hall last year and has experienced the Thanksgiving event firsthand.
“I feel like it’s her way of giving back to the community,” Cichocki said.
As for Clark herself, Cichocki only had positive things to say.
“Mrs. Faye (Marva) is a big part of the community in McKee,” Cichocki said. “She just encourages residents to be their best self. I know she did that for me.”
Cichocki said if a resident living in McKee Hall approached him about not being able to go home, he would recommend attending this event.
“I think they would definitely appreciate it a lot,” Cichocki said.
For Grant Sullivan, freshman agricultural business major, Clark's event really felt like Thanksgiving.
As a member of the building’s Council of Residential Experience, Sullivan helped set up for the Thanksgiving event and believes the event is important for those who cannot go home for the holiday.
“She knows some of them can’t go home for Thanksgiving,” Sullivan said. “She also knows it’s their first Thanksgiving away from home.”
While Sullivan has only lived in McKee Hall since August, he only had kind words to say about Clark.
“She’s just really a joy to be around,“ Sullivan said. “Basically, she’s a saint.”
Clark is looking for sponsorships and would like to get student organizations involved. For more information, call 601-549-8039.