Homelessness Action Week: Union Gospel Mission cooks 3,000 Thanksgiving dinners

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In recognition of Homelessness Action Week October 11 to October 17, Vancity Buzz will be featuring profiles and interviews with former residents of the Downtown East Side, organizations trying to make a difference, and the history of one of Vancouver’s most notorious neighbourhoods.

This series is presented in partnership with the Union Gospel Mission, which offers support, programs, and resources for people looking to overcome their addictions, reenter the work force, and take back control of their lives.

On Saturday, October 17, 2015 UGM invites you to learn about the DTES community through the Hello Neighbour Project, which offers neighbourhood walks and a community plunge at Oppenheimer Park. For more info visit www.ugm.ca/haw

More information on the Union Gospel Mission can be found online.


Union Gospel Mission Thanksgiving dinner

Today, the Union Gospel Mission throws open their doors for their annual Thanksgiving dinner. With over 2500 lbs of turkey, 800 lbs of mashed potatoes, 700 lbs of vegetables, 600 pumpkin pies, and 300 litres of ice cream, there’s plenty for everyone.

“I was in stirring the gravy just a moment ago,” Bill Mollard, President of the Union Gospel Mission, told Vancity Buzz. “It’s a 300 litre cauldron, and I’m thinking they’re using a paddle from a boat, it’s that big.”

This meal marks the most recent of ‘thousands of meals’ the UGM has served for the last 75 years.

“It starts where most programs, and services, and meals start at Union Gospel Mision,” says Mollard. “There’s a need.”

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War raged across the planet, and on the Downtown Eastside, alcoholism, addiction, and homelessness had a firm grip on the neighbourhood. Seeing the needs of Vancouver residents, a 21-year-old man named Bob Stacey rented the upstairs of 10 Powell Street and made enough soup and sandwiches for 60 people. This was how the Union Gospel Mission was born.

Since 1940, the Union Gospel Mission has served an estimated 10 million meals, and today alone they plan on serving 3,000 more.

“If you line those up, one in front of another, you actually have to get in your car, starting at Vancouver,” says Mollard. “You go past Calgary, and Winnipeg, you go past Toronto, and you still have come to the end of that line of meals.”

Mollard says meals like their Thanksgiving dinner, while seemingly simple, can be just what a person needs to start getting their life back on track.

“The people that we serve at UGM are typically people who are struggling with addictions, or struggling with mental health,” he says. “You would be surprised, many times for somebody to change their life – to get a little bit of hope back in their life – all it takes is a dry place on a rainy day like today, a warm smile, and a terrific meal.”

Mollard says a large portion of the 200 volunteers serving the Thanksgiving meal today have gone through the UGM’s Alcohol & Drug recovery program. With the opportunity to give back, the changes they’ve made in their lives are helping others make changes in theirs.

“Today they’re giving back. We know the programs are effective, and above all, we know today’s meal is delicious,” he says.

“People who are struggling with addictions or mental health, they want to make changes in their life but they’re broken, they need a little bit of help, and sometimes a meal is the beginning of a miracle.”

Union Gospel Mission Thanksgiving dinner

When: Monday, October 12; now until 4:30 p.m.

Where: Union Gospel Mission – 601 East Hastings Street, Vancouver

Price: Free

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Shawn O'Hara Shawn is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. He loves writing about news, arts, movies, comedy, and culture. Some would argue Shawn is too old to still play Dungeons & Dragons. Shawn would disagree.

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