CHICAGO (CBS) — At a time when it seems people are more divided than ever, there’s at least one woman in Rogers Park trying to bring people together, even if it’s just for a Christmas meal.
The festivities at Regina Rodriguez-Martin’s apartment might look like your typical family Christmas, but the group inside are all strangers, most from different parts of the globe.
“Originally from Iraq; moved to the United States about five years ago,” Ahmed Albandawi said. “I thought that it would be a great opportunity to meet new people, and to spend the major holidays and experience it the American way.”
Of course, food brings people together.
“I know what it’s like to be in Chicago without a place to go on the holidays,” Rodriguez-Martin said.
She opened her door to these strangers, who quickly turned friends, so they wouldn’t feel alone on Christmas.
“I am passionate about drawing people together, and helping them form bonds, and just helping them not feel lonely just for a couple of hours,” Rodriguez-Martin said.
Some celebrate Christmas, and can’t be with family; others just don’t have a place to go.
Sumayia Hassan spent Christmas roughly 8,000 miles from her native Bangladesh.
“Theres a tree that’s been lit up, and the Santa Claus comes and puts in gifts for the kids,” Hassan said.
That’s all she knew about the holiday before this year, which was her first Christmas.
“I like it. The best part about it, I think, is the gift exchange. That’s the fun part,” she said.
Rodriguez-Martin works as an American culture coach, but she also comes from immigrant parents herself, which is why she opens her door to anyone who needs a place to go on Christmas.
“There are people in Chicago that will just make them feel like they belong,” Rodriguez-Martin said.